By the numbers
Here's how bad thing are:
- The number of our neighbours living on the streets has risen from 1,364 in 2005 to 2,181 in 2018 – up 60 per cent – and we now see suffering in almost every community.
- For the over half of us who rent , 44 per cent spend over 30 per cent of their household income on rent and utilities with nearly one in four paying 50 per cent or more.
- Detached housing prices have increased 365 per cent since 2001, but incomes have only increased by 18 per cent over the same period.
These outrageous housing burdens have intersectional consequences as they are not spread evenly throughout the population. That women, visible minorities, the LGBTQ2S community, disabled people, young people, Indigenous community members, and other marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by soaring housing costs needs to be addressed in any policy.
Demand and supply both to blame
Out-of-control housing costs are caused by both demand and supply.
On the demand side, Vancouver's population will continue to grow through migration and immigration as newcomers need places to live. This is true for any healthy world city, and there is little that can be done to dampen this kind of demand due to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, housing costs are also inflated due to domestic and foreign speculation where homes are bought and sold as a commodity that dramatically drives up residential property prices and rents. While the provincial and city governments recently made moves in the right direction, more needs to be done to curb speculation.
In terms of supply, most countries with severe housing pressures like ours eventually discover markets only provide the most expensive types of housing and serious and sustained government intervention is necessary to make cities affordable. Our lack of investment in housing for middle- and low-income people is staggeringly deficient when compared internationally.
The private sector wholly provides 96 per cent of Canadian homes with governments involved in assisting to build and maintain the remaining four per cent . Where Canada's private/public ratio is 96/4, in Singapore it's 18/82, Hong Kong 56/44, Sweden 60/40, Netherlands 68/32, Denmark 74/26, and the UK 82/18.
Simply put, housing costs are so high in Vancouver because our governments have failed to invest in housing.
Fighting for housing affordability on two fronts
Here's what I'll do to alleviate Vancouver's housing problem:
On demand, I'll develop our understanding of who owns Vancouver and take measures to root out rampant speculation.
I've already started by putting forward a BC Affordable Housing Strategy in the House of Commons in 2015 which prompted the federal government to invest $500,000 to get a better grip on local ownership. If current measures to curb speculation prove ineffective, then I'll bring in stronger policies.
On supply, we need to recognize the market alone is not going to make Vancouver housing more affordable.
We need to stop thinking government involvement in housing begins and ends with sheltering the very poor and start implementing policies used in other countries to also take pressure off workers and middle-income families.
This includes building affordable, non-profit, rental housing on government land and bringing in limited equity ownership and non-speculative housing options so first-time buyers can get on the first rung of the property ladder if they choose to do so.
Only government action helped end the housing shortage of the last century. We need to do the same again to address our 21st century housing crisis – especially now that globalization and commodification have compounded our problems.
When it comes to making housing affordable again, these measures would be my top priority as Vancouver's next mayor.