Housing is increasingly unavailable and unaffordable for many renters and first time buyers. It’s the number one issue in Metro Vancouver and a real crisis to a rapidly growing number of people in North Vancouver. The recent and rapid escalation of housing costs are partly a result of migration from other parts of Canada but also a result of global financial investors looking for safe and profitable investments.
When the City gives density bonuses solely for the purpose of increasing the supply of market rental housing, in addition to not helping the affordability problem in the City, it might be making the problem worse as buyers speculate on the likelihood the City will increase the value of the land with a density bonus after they purchase it.
Region-wide supply/demand for market housing is not materially affected by the rate at which the supply increases in the City. We should grow, but not faster than the infrastructure that supports it or the time it takes to consult with the community and the neighbourhood.
The City wants to be seen to be doing something about it. Is there a better way?
The City has recently exchanged density for commitments from developers that “10% of units will be 10% below market rates for 10 years”. While this ‘made in the City’ approach makes for a catchy slogan, it still results in investor-owned market rental housing. It creates two classes of tenants in one building. It’s not clear who administers the policy in the long term and there was little support in terms of where else this approach had worked in the past.
Addressing the issue directly with those affected and supporting the social service organizations that meet their other needs is a more effective use of public resources than trying to address the affordability issue with incentives to developers.
Given the housing affordability crisis is to some extent a result of a global financial demand driving the cost of housing far above average local purchasing power, the solutions will have to involve forms of housing ownership–social housing, co-ops–that are insulated from those market forces.