Affordable housing in Vancouver

Affordable housing in Vancouver
Without the money for a house, many families flee to cramped condos and distant suburbs.

Want to really “green” Vancouver? Create affordable housing so families can actually live here.

All the evidence says that as the Vancouver real estate bubble continues to ripple across the Lower Mainland, it's ensuring that anyone young and/or poor will never – ever – be able to afford to live here.

When anything with a roof and doors costs a million, people without that kind of money have to turn to alternatives, like apartments and the suburbs. Which means that the prices – and rent – for that kind of housing increases as well. And then, extra transportation costs are loaded on.

So who cares?

The thousands of people who supposedly are the workforce that serves all these new rich might care. They’re not just struggling, they’re stuck in a vortex of continual searching for a place to live that doesn’t suck up 80 per cent of their income.

These families are not eating in all those fancy restaurants that have sprung up to serve the new rich. They’re not buying the appliances and all the other things that serve the housing industry. They’re not supporting the economy like they’re supposed to. They’re barely surviving.

Meanwhile, the city council has finally realized that family housing isn’t affordable here any more. So it claims it’s going to do something about it.

I doubt it.

In Vancouver, “affordable housing” usually means social housing in the Downtown East Side. The city responds to those vociferous and noisy social advocates in the area by building housing for the most disadvantaged.

Nothing wrong with that – in fact it’s laudable. But it usually stops there. They’re not building housing for the majority who need it.

So, if authorities are truly intent on creating affordable housing, some radical change in thinking is needed.

They have to lose the thinking that rental means bad, ownership is good. Most cities in the world have larger components of renters than owners.

They have to densify considerably. This is a much bigger city now and people have to get off the concept that they have a right to own a house with a lawn and garden 15 minutes from downtown. 

They have to get creative about encouraging the building of more rental housing. Anything built today is a complex full of tiny condos, because developers make more money that way. So make it worth their while to build rental housing.

We'd better address this problem now, because it’s only going to get worse. While it may seem nice for the collective ego to have a city of the rich, it’s not very intelligent from an economic point of view. 

Seems to me that one of the best ways to “green” this city is to create housing for the people who have to work here.