Housing: not just a big city problem

Jill Atkey
Publishing Date

Current trends in housing affordability, the challenges of insufficient data, and considerations on how communities can meet core housing needs were featured in a workshop at the 2021 Convention today.

Jill Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association informed delegates that 43% of BC’s nearly 600,000 renters spend more than 30% of their income on shelter costs. 

With a deficit of thousands of affordable units in BC, and robust community opposition to housing developments in many areas, Atkey warned that we “cannot build our way of this crisis,” but instead need to look to acquisition and retention in concert with the historic investments in building that BC is currently benefitting from.

Predictions modelled using artificial intelligence painted an even starker picture.  Dr. Alina Turner, co-President and co-Founder of HelpSeeker Technologies, identified that modeling projects BC with the second-fastest homelessness growth rate in Canada – with close to 9,000 people experiencing absolute homelessness on any given night.

She pointed to the need to use existing, broad-based social safety net data in an expedient manner in order to break the cycle of research, reporting and decision-making that can take months or years. Dr. Turner framed this as an optimization challenge and asked, “are we spending money on the right things?”

Dr. Penny Gurstein from the University of British Columbia pointed to the pre-pandemic trends that have escalated challenges in housing affordability. She spoke to the risks posed by the increased financialization of land and housing and the fact that BC is leading the country in evictions. “This is the consequence of housing used as real estate instead of homes," stated Dr. Gurstein.

The panelists agreed that the way forward will involve action by all levels of government.