“Vancouver is in desperate need of new solutions to ease its worsening housing affordability crisis. The 8th annual Demographia housing affordability survey released by the Frontier Centre found that Vancouver has the second least affordable housing market next to Hong Kong. On average, and assuming zero interest, a house in Vancouver would cost the median family more than ten years income. Three years is the threshold after which a market is considered unaffordable.
Mayor Robertson recently announced the launch of a new task force to tackle the housing affordability crisis. The only way to tackle this problem is to focus on getting more housing units on to the market.
Much of the debate around housing affordability descends into discussions about manipulating housing prices by freezing out market mechanisms.”
“In order to balance the concerns of housing affordability and urban sprawl, the city of Vancouver should strike a compromise: open portions of the ALR, but only to high density development. This may not be the optimum solution for families that would prefer to purchase single dwelling homes, but a significant influx of new units would be a countervailing force against runaway home prices. This would also put downwards pressure on housing in the rest of Greater Vancouver. Though opening up broad swaths of the ALR may be the ideal, this seems like a reasonable compromise.
This type of solution would rile people on both sides of the political spectrum, but it would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo. High home prices can only be solved from the supply side. The choice between maintaining the ALR as constituted or opening up portions should be obvious. Infill development can only go so far towards solving Vancouver’s housing crisis.”
- from ‘Time for Real Solutions to Vancouver’s Housing Affordability Crisis’, by Steve Lafleur, New Geography, 9 Mar 2012. Lafleur is a Policy Analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Assuming that “high home prices can only be solved from the supply side” leads most looking for a solution to consider ways of building new supply, and Lefleur offers a version of such a plan. But we note that, like almost every other commentator wrestling with Vancouver housing affordability, he leaves out the most obvious and necessary next step – an implosion of the bubble.
When the mania ends and prices begin their long descent, supply will come from what we’ve referred to as ‘speculative holders’ – not just the obvious flippers and developers, but all Vancouver owners who have been holding property because prices are rising. Most don’t even see themselves as speculators, but they are just that. And, when prices start their relentless decline, their reason for holding will evaporate and they will come to market. There will be lots and lots of supply, without any need to actually create more product. Seems counter-intuitive, but, there it is.
Vancouver will still have sore need for a sensible housing policy thereafter, but the milieu in which it will have to be made will be very different from that which faces us today.