Evidence-based Policy for BC’s Affordability Crisis

UBCM delegates heard wide ranging expert perspectives on how to tackle the province-wide housing affordability crisis during a Monday policy session.

In a preliminary panel, presenters provided evidence demonstrating that the crisis is not a result of limited housing supply. Dr. Josh Gordon, an Assistant Professor at SFU, emphasized that there is no evidence that efforts to boost supply would improve affordability, and such arguments only serve to deflect from the real need to address housing demand.

Both Dr. Gordon and Dr. David Ley of UBC, who has been researching the impacts of Asian capital on local housing markets for more than a decade, pointed towards evidence that taxation policy such as steep and progressive property transfer taxes are the most effective tools to blunting demand and improving affordability. 

The need to address the housing crisis was made plainly clear by Andy Yan, Director of the City Program at SFU, in stating “Where does Vancouver sit? Its (housing) values are between Honolulu and San Francisco, at Halifax incomes”. And while Metro Vancouver featured prominently in the discussion of the preliminary panel, presenters noted clear demonstrated spillover effects into other jurisdictions, a sentiment that was repeated by presenters in a second panel focusing on rural and northern BC.

Leading off the second panel, Marleen Morris of the Community Development Institute of UNBC, demonstrated that communities across the province face a lack of affordable housing, with the joint challenges of an aging housing stock, shrinking households that align poorly with the predominantly large housing available.

Armin Amrolia, Executive Director of Development Strategies at BC Housing, brought forward several examples of successful projects, emphasizing the collaborative roles of non-profit agencies and local governments. Finally, Jada Basi, CitySpace's Manager of Housing and Community Planning, presented a toolbox of policies that small communities could adapt to increase supply of affordable housing.

In concluding the session, Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay presented an overview of the work of the UBCM Special Committee on Housing, which will hold its next meeting in mid-October.

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