British Columbia

Vancouver housing still unaffordable despite possible federal funding say experts

Housing affordability in the city is going to get worse before it gets better, say housing experts on Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson’s $500 million proposal to the federal government.

Any federal funding for housing won't help Vancouver in the short term say housing expert and architect

The benchmark price for Greater Vancouver detached home (excluding Surrey, North Delta and Langley) jumped nearly 28 per cent over the past year to $1.29 million in January, according to the latest figures released by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (The Canadian Press)

Federal money for housing may be coming Vancouver's way in the next budget, but affordability in the city is going to get worse before it gets better, say housing experts.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson announced yesterday the city is asking the federal government for half a billion dollars to build social housing on $250 million worth of city owned land — most of it vacant. He and 19 other Canadian mayors are in Ottawa this week, pitching their needs to the federal government before it releases its budget.

But one non-profit housing executive says that while the proposal puts Vancouver ahead of other cities when it comes to putting shovels to the ground, it will still take years to build more housing.

"Things are going to get worse before it gets better," said Tony Roy, CEO of B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.

It will take more than federal money to fix Vancouver' affordable housing issues say Tony Roy (left), CEO of B.C. Non Profit Housing Association and Michael Geller, architect and planner. (Charlie Cho/CBC)

Expiring co-op housing contracts, an aging population, and the rising cost of land will perpetuate Vancouver's housing affordability issues in the near future.

Any funding deal with the federal government will be a long-term solution, but that doesn't mean people should not support it, said Roy.

"It's important to be supportive of the politicians who are stepping now at the city level now to make those decisions.. because people aren't going to see the results of them by the next election. This isn't a quick fix, this is a long term decision."

Robertson's proposal suggests that federal money be put toward building new social housing on 20 city owned sites.

There are currently 60,000 units of social housing and 15,000 units of co-op housing in B.C. according to Roy.

What about rental housing?

Vancouver has one of the lowest vacancy rates in Canada, with a 0.5 % vacancy rate for private apartments according to CMCH's October 2014 numbers. (CBC)

Building social housing will only do so much, says one urban planner. B.C. is home to many renters, like fixed-income seniors and international students — and rental vacancy rates are low.

The city has to find ways to fill the need for rental housing now, regardless of whether that federal money comes through, says architect and planner Michael Geller.

He says re-zoning single-family home neighbourhoods may be the best course of action.

"Vancouver will never be as affordable as Winnipeg, but we could begin, I think, to at least create some of these other options."

"You see wonderful opportunities to build lots of townhouse and low-rise apartments."

The city announced Wednesday plans to create 252 units of market rental housing near Burrard Street and 14th Ave on the city's west side.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Reaction to Vancouver's affordable housing plan.


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