November 18, 2011

More Homes For More People

Metro Vancouver’s fast growing population is expected to encompass an additional 1.1 million people by 2040.

Maureen Enser is executive director of the Urban Development Institute

The Urban Development Institute was recently privileged to partner with the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue and key leaders in the for-profit and not-for-profit housing sectors to host a conference on affordable housing in Vancouver. This was not just another housing conference, but a collaborative dialogue and workshop to find real solutions to Metro Vancouver’s very real housing affordability problems.

Along with the expert insights of world-renowned housing affordability expert Prof. Avi Friedman, the group openly discussed and contributed a diverse range of perspectives – perspectives that, when acted upon, will begin to address the affordability problem across the housing continuum. This includes solutions that cover housing for the homeless, low-income housing, and improving market affordability in Vancouver for the majority of homebuyers.

The need to improve market affordability for Generation Y, families, creative and innovative individuals, immigrants and future residents was a top priority of the conference participants. In a practical sense – and with the contributions of Dr. Friedman – it became clear that there is a raft of practical measures we can collectively take to improve affordability. These range from developing innovative co-ownership financing models and creative architectural options, to eliminating the property transfer tax and red-tape in planning. Identifying solutions for our common affordability problems is the easy part. Implementing those solutions can have its challenges, in a political sense, but there is most definitely a consensus that urgent action and leadership is needed from politicians at all levels of government.

Solutions are needed that cover housing for the homeless, low-income housing and improved market affordability for most homebuyers.

It is hard to argue with the principle that we need ‘more homes for more people.’ Metro Vancouver has a fast growing population and we expect an additional 1.1 million people living in the region by 2040. Where there is a growing population we will also need to create more jobs for more people, with supporting industrial and commercial spaces. Fostering a political environment in British Columbia where this can occur is central to meeting these future needs.

Prof. Avi Friedman

On another note and for my last column with Westcoast Homes + Design for 2011, I would like to congratulate you, the reader, for your contribution to the housing affordability battle. Earlier this year the people of B.C. voted overwhelmingly to rescind the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) – a tax which imposed an additional seven-per-cent cost for the homebuyer on a new home. While the government continues to drag its heels in developing a ‘Plan B’ transition away from the HST system, we are now moving in a positive direction, thanks to the outcome of that vote. Well done to the people of B.C. for saying no to a particularly harmful tax on shelter.

Before I sign off for the year, if any readers are interested to learn more about the causes and solutions to un-affordability in our region, please visit our website at www.udi.bc.ca or follow us on Twitter at @udibc. Have a great Christmas and Happy New Year!

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