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Opinion  

BC's housing crisis

By Dermod Travis

Ever sense that you've been listening to one, or more, of these rants again and again over the past few years? 

"It's foreign buyers. No, it's not. Show me your proof. The CMHC said so. No, they didn't. They said there wasn't sufficient data to form a conclusion."

"It's all about supply. Yeah, right, what supply? Every time you guys dream up a new condo project you sell it all through pre-sales in China and Singapore. You're a xenophobe."

"We need to increase density. Oh, so no more single family homes, just wall-to-wall glass towers? Hey, didn't you hear former B.C. premier Mike Harcourt, we're about to be hit by an “urban tsunami?”

"If you're not willing to increase density, we're going to start pushing to get our hands on some of that agricultural land. Oh, like you aren't already. And what's with those mega-mansions anyways?"

"You're not putting those modular housing units in my neighbourhood."

"Isn't the city going to do something, there's nearly 40 tents across the street from my house with the homeless living there, the homeless. I'm never donating to that charity again, it's their fault."

"You want me to take a personality test before you'll rent to me? You've got to be kidding? We want to make sure you're a good fit with the other tenants. Why, I'm not going to be living in their apartments?"

The repetitiveness can grate after a while. 

Every side in B.C.'s housing crisis debate wants to be 100 per cent right, 100 per cent of the time.

Sorry to disappoint, but there's a host of contributing factors, enough blame to go around and the distinct possibility of some dire consequences still ahead.

In a recent Business in Vancouver column, Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock of the B.C. Business Council noted that in the last six months of 2017, “the net inflow of people moving to B.C. from other provinces fell sharply.”

Their hunch? “High housing costs are discouraging some from relocating to B.C.” 

The duo worry that if they're correct, “employers in B.C. are likely to face more widespread hiring challenges in the years ahead.” 

It's a viewpoint shared by the British Columbia Teachers Federation that says, “the province is short about 2,000 teachers, with the situation most severe in Vancouver due to its combination of sky-high housing costs and wage issues.”

All of which is why it's a bit much for a University of B.C. professor – who made more than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year – to lecture those on the edge of homelessness on how to increase housing supply by selling Canadian citizenships to the world's ultra-rich.

On the topic of “a bit much,” the marketing director of a major Vancouver property developer claimed this week that the company has a website in Chinese because 40 per cent of Vancouver’s population has Chinese as their mother tongue. 

Unless the website is only accessible within specific neighbourhoods, the percentage of residents in Metro Vancouver that report Chinese as their mother tongue is 15.1 per cent. Fortunately, he's the director of marketing, not architectural design.

Something else to keep in mind? Metro Vancouver may be the epicentre of B.C.'s housing debate, but make no mistake this is a province-wide crisis and it's time for fewer rants, less shouting and more listening.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

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