March 7, 2022

David Eby & Metro Vancouver Housing: Will Less Red Tape, Increased Supply, Mean More Affordability?

There has been much discussion about the B.C. Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, David Eby’s comments in late January. He expressed frustration that new rental units were not coming on stream as fast as he’d like, and talked about the fact that rental projects “had been rejected in Surrey, Penticton and North Vancouver”.

British Columbia does have a foreign buyers’ tax for foreigners purchasing dwellings, and has changed requirements so people cannot hide behind companies with number- ike names. There is also a speculation and vacancy tax (SVT) to ensure that housing does not sit idle.

Those measures have clearly made a difference but Mr. Eby appears to want more, especially with social housing. And he has suggested a stick approach if municipalities do not build more. But his proposal to curtail things like provincial transit to cities that do not approve social housing would impact those without vehicles, further exacerbating the parity cliffs experienced by citizens.

As written by Kerry Gold, Mr. Eby is concentrating on the demand side of housing, thinking that more supply with a “less regulated system and a freer private market” would lower housing prices.

In a Vancouver Sun article  Lisa Cordasco interviewed Duke of Data and Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University about housing market conditions and the impact of taxes designed to slow down investment purchases. Andy Yan noted that that the foreign buyers’ and the speculation tax were working, with vacant homes not increasing in numbers last year.

But Andy Yan’s data also points out that in British Columbia there have been more houses built in the last three years than any other three year time in the last two decades. That increase in housing units has not lowered costs, suggesting it is not more supply of housing that is needed, but targeting the type of housing to be built.

“Two-thirds of building applications in Vancouver last year were only affordable for 40 per cent of the population, so it shows a sizable reinvestment in non-market housing construction is needed.The province needs to consider this because the market side isn’t ready to house that population. That’s where things like working with official community plan legislation could make a difference. OCPs (official community plans) will need a housing component around income based, local median income.”

Vancouver Viewpoint has already written that in Vancouver 68 percent of units are not designed for families, being two bedrooms or less.  Forty-one percent are studios or one bedrooms. Young families are the missing link in neighbourhoods, and need to be accommodated.

Because of the lack of housing for people forming families, the City is losing adults from age 35 to 44 and children. As noted in Vancouver’s Social Indicators Report.  People having kids need amenities, schools and space. We need to find a way to bring these families back to the city, and that may not happen in the “Making Home” proposal Council has asked the Planning Department to do. Under that proposal, up to six units could be built on a single detached or duplex lot, but there is no bonusing for  larger units that could be ground oriented and built to accommodate families and kids. There’s no addressing the missing link.

University of British Columbia’s Tom Davidoff believes that under the “Making Home” proposal  there should not be a mandate for  developers to build below market housing, but allow for a fee  to be captured that could be applied towards non market housing elsewhere.

Andy Yan describes it best by calling housing policy a “team sport”. Local, provincial and federal government funding is important, but regional priorities, identifying what type of housing is needed where is also vitally important.

Tomorrow, Gordon Price introduces  Ken Cameron,  who was Manager for Policy and Planning for Metro Vancouver. As a regional expert, Ken  provides a succinct analysis of where housing is going in the region. He will be  describing  what he perceives as the missing links, with a prediction of what the future housing outcomes will be.

Image: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

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Comments

  1. These debates often boil down to simplistic formulae: “more supply!” or “less red tape!”. It’s a lot of decisions, unfortunately. There’s no magic bullet. More supply is good (especially rental) as is reducing the ability of entitled neighbours to block projects.

    But the two most unfortunate things about this whole problem are: 1) there’s no consensus on what an appropriate value for a home should be, and 2) there’s no incentive for local governments to reduce housing value. Tax base aside, any government that “allows” housing prices to fall precipitously will soon be out of a job.

  2. Andy is totally correct. At this point in time and with the current market, there is simply no way to build more supply that will also lead to providing housing for those, especially families with children with need for deep subsidies. The BC government needs to come forth with additional subsidies, just as provincial governments did in the 1970s and 80s.

  3. The most salient comment is this one, below. It’s not just about supply, but the right supply at prices more in line with the local economy. We have 100,000 units in the pipe which will house over 200k people, so clearly we are building. Now it’s about what we build.

    “Because of the lack of housing for people forming families, the City is losing adults from age 35 to 44 and children. As noted in Vancouver’s Social Indicators Report. People having kids need amenities, schools and space. We need to find a way to bring these families back to the city, and that may not happen in the “Making Home” proposal Council has asked the Planning Department to do. “

  4. In a politically correct world, talk of easing demand with a moratorium on immigration for a few years is complete heresy. There is no labour to increase supply, even if you completely eliminate red tape. There is not enough water and sewerage infrastructure, in many parts of the city.

    Adding population to a jurisdiction without a plan for affordable housing, park space and schools is ridiculous. It’s a proven failure,

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