Photo: Nick Watkins/Flickr

Last week, the City of Vancouver released its 10-year plan to tackle the city’s housing affordability crisis, but one organization says the strategy is missing key details.

According to Generation Squeeze, the strategy is a comprehensive plan that they applaud, however, it has its shortcomings with respect to housing targets and wealth inequities.

“Any adequate housing strategy, whether it’s at the municipal level or the national level, needs to engage directly with the wealth inequalities that are playing out along generational lines right now as a result of rising home prices,” Dr. Paul Kershaw, UBC professor and Generation Squeeze founder, tells BuzzBuzzNews.

The non-profit organization describes itself as leading a national campaign lobbying on behalf of Canadians in their 40s and younger addressing the growing squeeze that group is facing in the marketplace.

Kershaw says Vancouver’s 60-plus page proposal fully embraces the principle of homes first, investments second, and provides a multi-prong approach to rein in home prices relative to what younger people earn. However, the plan contains weak spots that need to be recognized.

Over the next decade, the City plans on building 72,000 housing units, with two-thirds of this total available for renters. But after reading the targets, Kershaw doesn’t believe this is sufficient.

“Do we know that the 72,000 units are going to be enough to add back the kind of competition we need to see in the housing market so that it will help to actually cool down housing prices?” says Kershaw.

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The City’s report does not provide rationale as to how it came up with the targets and Kershaw worries the plan does not sufficiently address the amount of supply needed to help put downward pressure on prices.

He also adds that 72,000 units isn’t a bold enough number.

In 2016 and 2017, Kershaw says there were 11,000 housing starts per year on average, significantly more than the roughly 7,000 units the current strategy would bring to the market over the next decade.

Furthermore, the City details how many new units will be allocated for social housing, rentals and ownership, but doesn’t mention the price of these units — information Kershaw says needs to be included.

“One of the worries that we have is that what is said to be affordable for those income ranges still tends to be pretty darn expensive,” he says.

Using the City’s numbers from the report, Kershaw says if a below market rent for a three-bedroom home is $2,000 a month, then a typical household income to cover that cost would need to be $80,000 — well above the median household income in Vancouver of $67,000.

“The plan to some degree is not even imagining that a typical earning household could afford a three-bedroom apartment to rent in the city,” says Kershaw.

To the UBC professor, the most critical downfall of the strategy is that it doesn’t address housing wealth inequities head-on. Skyrocketing prices have squeezed many residents out of the market, while benefitting a new group of people Kershaw refers to as “lottery winners.”

Kershaw says the plan lacks an acknowledgement of generational and wealth inequities, along with the taxation solutions needed to correct them.

“We should establish in BC and Ontario, working groups that look into taxing real estate wealth fairly, with a focus on ‘how do we address these lottery winnings?’” says Kershaw.

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