More needs to be done to make housing affordable in B.C.

Housing affordability in B.C.

Housing is a basic need for people to live, survive and thrive.

Having housing that is affordable, attainable, and accessible is important for a society to grow and flourish. Housing in B.C. is none of those things. Over the course of the last six years, it has become increasingly expensive and harder to get.

Many think that the interest rate increases will bring down housing prices. Perhaps it will, but not for the right reasons, which means it won’t last.

Rising interest rates take potential purchasers out of the market, no longer qualifying them for the home they need. When that happens, more residents have to rent. Without more rental units, the cost of rent goes up.

Why? Supply and demand.

In the last six years, the government has focused on quelling demand through additional taxes, making housing more expensive. It has now admitted taxing our way to housing affordability doesn’t work, and B.C. has a supply issue. Only now is it trying to focus on increasing the supply.

The government promised 114,000 units over 10 years. We are now in year five of that plan and have only seen 6,400 units of housing created by B.C. Housing joint ventures and projects.

How bad is our supply issue? Currently, Canada has the lowest number of housing units per 1,000 residents of any G7 country, with 424 homes per 1,000 Canadians. It would take an additional 1.8 million homes for Canada to achieve the G7 average. B.C. would need 540,000 units of housing in the next decade to supply for our population, and we have seen how the lack of supply has driven up housing prices throughout the province.

There are other costs hidden in housing as well. Additional pressures from development cost charges (DCCs), taxes, levies, and municipal fees can add more than $100,000 to the cost of a home. In Vancouver, (those costs) can add hundreds of thousands dollars.

Then there is the time—the time to get through the approval process can add tens of thousands of dollars to each unit.

There has been much spoken about the length of time to get through the planning process in municipalities, but there are also approvals required from the provincial and federal governments.

Often, approvals from the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Forests can add years to a development application. Meanwhile, housing just keeps getting more expensive.

The lack of housing affordability is seen everywhere in our city—the senior who is being evicted from a suite he or she has rented for more than 30 years and can’t find anywhere else to rent, the young adult who can’t move out because he or she can’t make enough to pay for housing or there is the couple who postpones having kids because their one-bedroom condo in a tower isn’t big enough for a family. Then there is family who is barely making it, selling their house and moving out of the province to have a better life. The list is long and getting longer.

We need more supply.

My question for you this week is:

What role should government play in making housing more affordable?

I love hearing from you.

Email me at [email protected] or call my office 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC Liberal MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for the Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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