Building more won’t solve the housing problem, say BC municipalities

B.C. cities are diligently approving enough housing construction to keep up with population growth, so the provincial housing minister should stop blaming them for housing problems, according to a new report from the association representing residents. municipalities in British Columbia.

Attorney General David Eby, who is also housing minister, said he is considering provincial legislative options to override municipalities that refuse to approve social housing or housing near public transport. That prompted the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to respond Wednesday with a report concluding that it’s not a reasonable option given all the cities have done.

“The idea … that there is a crisis in housing supply relative to population growth is not supported by evidence,” says the report, which includes charts showing how housing production has been at its highest level in recent years in British Columbia.

“Given that local governments have also approved record amounts of new homes in recent years, it is evident that the data does not support a mandate for wholesale change to the development approval process, but has instead continued to streamline .”

Mr. Eby and various housing experts pushed back against the report on Wednesday, continuing the long-running debate in British Columbia over whether a lack of supply or an uncontrollable, predatory demand from investors and speculators is the root of the province’s problems.

Mr Eby said the province had done a lot of work to control demand, introducing a speculation tax, a tax on foreign buyers and possible limits on vacation rental activity. But it’s clear to him that building more is an important part of the solution as a massive wave of newcomers from other provinces and overseas hits, along with another wave of new tech workers.

“I do not understand how this report could be so disconnected from the lived reality. We are at a peak in immigration that we haven’t seen in 30 years,” said the minister, who himself has been a lifelong tenant until this month.

He said the reality is that tenants are in a hunger games competition to get any kind of place to live, while families line up by 20 to bid on the few affordable townhouses in their towns. “This report will provide cover for municipalities that don’t want to do anything. And it’s not sustainable for me to keep calling city councils asking them to approve new housing.

But the president of the municipalities union said that was far from the intention: local government politicians thought it was important to set the record straight on what they do.

“We know there is a housing supply problem,” said Laurey-Anne Roodenburg, also a councilor in Quesnel. “But the minister’s comments don’t give enough credit to what the municipalities are doing.”

She acknowledged that there are some municipalities that are “exceptions” that have generated a lot of media coverage because they voted against specific projects. But she said most aren’t like that.

“You can’t paint all local governments with the same brush.” And, she said, “it appears to be a distraction from the province’s housing plan.”

This plan, presented by the NDP shortly after taking office in 2017, called for the construction of 114,000 affordable housing units in the province within 10 years. The province does not appear to be on track to achieve this, despite massive spending on social housing.

Ms. Roodenburg said many other factors are causing housing supply problems, including some provincial regulations, a shortage of construction labor and supplies, and a lack of action by the federal government.

Mr Eby has been unusually vocal for a Cabinet minister in pushing for more housing supply, going so far as to personally call councilors or request media interviews to show his support for a particular project.

Several economists and statisticians who have researched housing issues have also expressed concerns about the report, saying it gives an inaccurate impression of what is happening.

The report contained several graphs and statements indicating that the number of houses built has matched or exceeded population growth since 2016, which they say is a fundamental misunderstanding of how population ends up being limited when housing is also limited.

“Too naive an analysis comparing housing to population growth to declare the adequacy of our housing supply fails to understand that housing and population growth are intimately linked,” said statistical analyst Jens von Bergmann, a decoder regular housing statistics for Vancouver and Canada. “It is a slap in the face to those who have been driven out, or those who have not been able to move here, due to the unavailability of accommodation.”

He and many others pointed out that population growth is limited if housing is scarce, as many will not move to a place where prices have skyrocketed and those already there may decide to move.

Additionally, cities may need more housing, even if their official population is not growing, as household dynamics in their cities change, with more international students arriving, more children older people moving out of their parents’ homes and millennials who want their own spaces instead of shared homes.

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