As the housing market falls apart, stakeholders build a plan

Provincial and Federal governments start to create a stronger housing plan to help combat housing crisis

By: Maya Schofield

Rising housing prices in BC have become the topic of serious discussion across the province. On September 14, A diverse panel of housing operatives in British Columbia came together to discuss the province-wide housing crises at SFU’s Morris J Wosk Centre for Dialogue.

The attendees spent the day sharing and brainstorming methods that would create more social housing and reopen the market to renters and potential homeowners.

After roughly 30 years of being hands-off in the housing market, according to some reports, the provincial and federal governments are beginning to work with stakeholders and advocacy groups in order to create a thorough National Housing Strategy.  Discussions held at the housing crisis initiative centred on building and renovating new social housing sites, working with landlords, modernizing transportation, and generating housing for rural and urban indigenous communities.

The housing crisis in BC is a very unique one in Canada, and is pronounced in Greater Vancouver in particular.

The housing crisis in BC is a very unique one in Canada, and is pronounced in Greater Vancouver in particular. David Hutniak of LandLordBC explained that the real estate industry generates $10.6 billion in revenue yearly.

However, most British Columbians are not gaining much of this profit, as many are being pushed out of the housing market, the rental market, and social housing. The provincial and federal governments are trying to find a viable strategy to balance these conflicting realities.

BC Housing Minister, the Honourable Rich Coleman, opened up the conversation by stating that “housing strategies are not just about housing.” He cited the need for additional transportation to reach more rural areas, and for government on the provincial and federal levels to “think outside the box on housing [. . .] as housing is the connection to the people we serve.”

Coleman also noted that the $150M over two years that the new Liberal government has promised, in addition to provincial funds, will help deal with immediate issues in British Columbia, though he stressed that a long-term plan is essential. He went further by appealing to attendees, promoting “heart, humanity, and innovation” as the key tenets to dealing with issues pertaining to social housing, rental, and home ownership issues.

In keeping with this new culture of innovation, Kishone Tony Roy, chief executive officer of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, pushed the importance of transit near social and rental housing.

“The provincial government should be attentive about where they’re building transit lines, and to make sure they are near social housing,” he said. Roy further stressed that a modern transportation system would be a key component to the success of future social housing, as it would give tenants more opportunity to commute to work or education programs.

According to Hutniak of LandLordBC, the price ceiling in BC for rental homes is slated to rise another 2.9 percent this year, which is the government-controlled price limit. This means that we can expect to see the median cost of rent increase as British Columbians continue to look towards rental housing as an alternative to home ownership.  

Given this information, millennials should be looking forward to paying an extra $50 or so for the same ratty apartment (sometimes literally), and contentious roommates (usually literally).

An intrinsic theme of the discussions centred not only upon the pervasive housing inequities in BC, but also the effects of a lack of accessibility and affordability — now and in the future. “There are businesses in Surrey struggling to stay open because workers can’t afford to live in the area,” Hutniak said, bringing us back to Coleman’s opening comment that “housing strategies are not just about housing.”  

In the eyes of the panel members, the problem surrounding housing does not only implicate British Columbians in need of affordable housing. It has generated economic problems in the tertiary economy, as more people choose to move out of fiscally inaccessible neighbourhoods, leaving cafés devoid of baristas and local companies struggling to keep up with larger businesses.

The Government of BC is seeking to further partner with investors and the federal government to create a realistic and, more importantly, unique plan for the future. They hope to relay their unique strategies to the National Housing Strategy. The strategy should be put into effect next year, in hopes of inspiring gradual changes in the accessibility of housing.

Until then, a 450-square-foot apartment is called a “cozy bachelor pad” and a closet a “homey den,” so settle in.