June 1, 2015

Bob Rennie’s “19 Influencers on High Housing Costs”

Novae Res Urbis covered the talk Bob Rennie gave to the Urban Development Institute in which he supported a ‘speculation tax.’  But more helpfully, they listed what Rennie called …

The 19 Influencers on High Housing Costs

  • Zero or limited ability to create single-family housing stock
  • Record high land costs in the region
  • Rising construction costs
  • Upset neighbourhood and community groups who need to be informed on population growth and pressures on the city
  • Consumer expectations
  • The million-dollar single-family home “on the verge of extinction”
  • Aging population with billions in equity to spend
  • Foreign ownership
  • Zoning enacted in isolation of today’s population
  • An insular society
  • Very few head offices
  • We still keep using the word “white”
  • A higher-tax, fewer-services creep
  • A nameless, faceless blogsphere with opinions in isolation of facts
  • The courtroom being used to fight politics and density
  • Population increases
  • An ever-increasing transfer of wealth
  • A cultural shift of wanting to live where everybody else lives
  • Less reliance on the car



“There’s just too many forces working against affordability right now,” he said, adding that the city is past using “baby steps” as a solution and that transit-oriented development “shouldn’t even be a discussion.”

He has also suggested that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. as a stakeholder “start attending the anti-density, not-in-my-backyard meetings and explained the consequences of no supply” and other pressures on affordability.

“If we do not allow density, we’re effectively telling our millennials, families and seniors that they have to move out of the city,” he said.


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  1. Indeed many influencers that could be changed. One is more density. Another more land in the mudflats off Richmond, Surrey, Delta or UBC even. A third is either reduced foreign ownership or better, it’s far higher monetization, i.e. taxation of housing. As stated elsewhere by others and by me, the BC tax mix has to shift more from incomes and PST to properties, the new gold. Many folks do not pay any, or low income taxes in BC, yet own multi-million $ homes. That is where the disconnect lies. Homes owned by (vast healthcare absorbing) seniors, large homes owed by non-residents, homes with 3 generations in it yet only 1-2 income tax payers .. hobby farms .. all those need to be far taxed more.

    The tax mix assumes houses are merely residences. They are not. They are major investments. As such, they need to be taxed far more. I’d say even the capital gains exemption on a personal residence is widely abused.

    We need to link home ownership and the taxation system. As such, if you are a “Canadian” with multiple passports you must declare your world wide income in Canada. Some may do that, many more may chose to not to. Related article on this topic by a tax lawyer: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/system+cool+housing+bubble+Vancouver+immigration+lawyer/11070100/story.html

    We need to treat housing like a consumption. I continue to be amazed how cheap housing taxes are in Canada and how cheap the sale is. No PST. No GST. No land transfer taxes except in a few provinces. So why not increase land transfer taxes to PST levels, or to 1% per $1M to be more graduated. We could also give a rebate say after 10 years of ownership, or for every year of ownership 1%. That means flippers pay far more than long term home owners.

    What is the rational behavior of a wealthy immigrant with 3 houses elsewhere (say London, New York and Singapore)? Buy a very big house in Vancouver (or Calgary or Toronto), buy little in Canada and derive income from abroad, yet consume healthcare (for him/herself and/or elderly parents) or schooling for the kids here. On house sale, pay 0 taxes. Pay little taxes while owning. That is rational smart behavior, and done by the 1000’s, likely 10,000’s in major urban centers in Canada, specifically MetroVan and GTA. That behavior needs to be taxed far more, i.e. housing !

  2. Is there a complete copy of Bob’s UDI talk anywhere to read or watch? He is always succinct at forecasting where we are going to and why. Good on him for calling out on the need to educate on the impact of scarce housing diversity and supply, and related affordability.

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