British Columbia

Vancouver's housing market — the canary in the coalmine

The prime minister joined more than two dozen experts and stakeholders in real estate, housing, economics and planning at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver.

Prime Minister Trudeau met with housing experts to discuss Vancouver's red hot real estate market

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a room full of academics, politicians and stakeholders during a roundtable discussion on real estate. (Genevieve Milord/CBC News)

Growing concerns over Vancouver's housing market is the canary in the coalmine for affordability issues across the country, that according to UBC professor and founder of Generation Squeeze, Paul Kershaw, who was among the speakers in attendance at a roundtable discussion on real estate with Prime Minister Trudeau.

The Prime Minister joined more than two dozen experts and stakeholders in real estate, housing, economics, and planning at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver, Friday.

In his opening remarks, Trudeau announced that while he has engaged significantly with the B.C. premier and local mayors on the subject of housing affordability, his task during this meeting was to listen to the problems and potential solutions. 

"What I'm really going to want to do today is listen to all of you, listen to the various perspectives, the various concerns you have to help understand exactly what's going on and the multiple forces at play here within this issue."

Generational inequality

We have to rethink how our system of housing is providing access to homes.- Paul Kershaw

Experts raised issues ranging from zoning to foreign buyers, but according to Kershaw the topic of generational inequality in terms of access to affordable housing struck a chord with Trudeau. 

UBC professor and founder of Generation Squeeze, Paul Kershaw, calls into question the generational inequality for housing in Canada. (Genevieve Milord/CBC)

"It used to take the typical young Canadian five years to save a 20 per cent down payment on an average home. Now, across the country, it takes 12 years," said Kershaw. 

"We're at a moment as a country where housing has just become so much more out of reach for a younger generation, and we have to rethink how our system of housing is providing access to homes."

B.C. the new Saskatchewan?

Generation Squeeze and Kershaw made the point to the Prime Minister that British Columbia has become to housing what Saskatchewan was once to medical care.

"In the 30s and 40s, it was really difficult to afford a doctor or go to the hospital from coast to coast. The problem was particularly bad in Saskatchewan.  

"And then we started adapting policy ideas in Saskatchewan, had a prime minister spread them across the country and today we define ourselves as Canadians by that policy adaptation." 

Action needed

Trudeau stated that he was looking for areas where the experts believed he should be "nudging" the provincial and municipal governments to take direct action.

And Kershaw says while the prime minister agreed he would continue to listen to a diverse range of opinions, he also realized the urgency of the situation in not waiting too long to make some changes.