Metro Vancouver Housing Committee March 8 learns affordable housing efforts failing, affordable rentals down by over half since 2007

The Metro Vancouver Housing Committee meets today, March 7, at 9:30 am.  This meeting is important as important information and reports will be presented on housing affordability.

Despite five years of efforts by this committee, housing has not become more affordable in Metro Vancouver, and a goal to increase the number of affordable units has also not been met. In fact, the numbers are going in the opposite direction. See  story by News1130 (Report shows flaws in plan to increase affordable housing, by Dave White, 7-Mar-2013, excerpted below). Affordable housing is one of the pillars of election campaign promises in several municipalities, including Vancouver.

This topic deserves careful analysis. Why are efforts failing? Is it because many efforts are cosmetic and avoid serious consideration of underlying factors? Citizens are finding that some policies in Vancouver, for example, may actually be causing land price escalation (Affordability destroyers: Are STIR policies and spot rezonings inflating land prices? Rezoning sites up 28 to 38% in one year). And politicians seem to be consciously avoiding the elephant in the room — foreign, non-resident buyers of local real estate. See what Vancouver’s former director of planning said at the recent Buildex Conference (Foreign ownership “the elephant crushing the table” of housing affordability: Brent Toderian, former planning director) — note that he refers to it as “external demand.”

The agenda and report contents are here in PDF.

Also, regarding transparency and accessibility, we applaud Metro Vancouver for responding to public requests and making Board meetings available by live video webcast while in process. That was a big step forward. But the video is still not available in archive form online for the public. And the video is limited to Board meetings. Other important meetings like this Housing Committee meeting are not available by web video. ACTION: Write your elected officials and urge them to push for live and archive video of all Metro Vancouver board and committee meetings.

Below are some of the main points in coverage on News 1130

Report shows flaws in plan to increase affordable housing
Affordable housing rentals down by over half since 2007
Dave White March 7, 2013 3:47 pm

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Housing has not become more affordable in Metro Vancouver, despite efforts by a regional committee launched five years ago. A goal to increase the number of affordable units has also not been met.

The figures are in the <>Metro Vancouver Housing Committee‘s agenda for Friday.

Committee Vice Chair and Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs admits there’s a problem.

“It’s harder to buy, it’s more expensive to rent, and those indicators are going in the wrong direction,” Meggs says.

He says the number of starter homes $385,000 or less is down by the thousands and it’s much worse for rentals.

“This is a really disturbing trend but it’s not a surprise to anyone,” Meggs points out. “I mean if you look at the number of rental units that are at or below $750 a month, and we’re talking Metro Vancouver not just the City of Vancouver, that number has dropped more than half.”

Between 2007 and 2012, the average monthly rent rose by about $150 from $898 to $1,047. The number of ‘affordable units’ at or below $750 a month dropped from 34,000 to 15,000. The rental pool has grown though, with nearly triple the number of rental housing starts.

When it comes to property ownership, there are thousands fewer entry level homes. The average cost of a new single detached home rose nearly $200,000.

The goal to increase the supply of affordable housing and entry level ownership was set in 2007.

Some of the work planned is still in progress but other aspects are being ‘updated.’

While targets haven’t been met everywhere, Meggs says the five year plan gives a better idea of where we’re at as a region. He insists progress is being made, especially on homelessness and improving the rental stock. There are far more units out there than five years ago, just not in everyone’s price range.

Meggs says the affordable rental housing stock would increase rapidly if the provincial and federal governments became more involved.


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