In recent years, the "progressive YIMBY” (Yes, in my backyard) movement has embraced the idea that a surge in market-housing supply will magically lead to affordability. However, all housing supply is not created equal. Despite a construction boom building thousands of new market units of multi-family supply, affordable housing remains elusive for over a third of British Columbians. The economic theory is not producing the promised housing affordability.
As the modelling and analysis that Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon used to justify the BC NDP’s mass upzoning of single-family, middle-class neighbourhoods showsit will produce less than half the supply needed to meet the demand. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates for B.C. to get housing affordability back to what we experienced in the early 2000s, we need to build 610,000 units more than would have been constructed. Tom Davidoff, one of the report’s authors, is cautious in his predictions of both the affordability achieved by the upzoning and the immediacy of the changes. The BC NDP’s approach is not an urgent solution to a housing affordability crisis but rather a short-term communication exercise, increasing the wealth of homeowners and hopes of renters leading into a provincial election.
We have an urgent housing affordability crisis and this is evidence of how inefficient it is to wait for the private sector to deliver housing affordability. The housing crisis is more localized for those experiencing core housing need. The core housing needs are the people in our communities whose housing is insecure, inadequate or unaffordable. In B.C., nearly 15 per cent of the population is paying more than 30 to 50 per cent of their annual income on housing. This is the most critical intervention point for the provincial government.
A 2021 Statistics Canada report shows the core housing need in Canada is 10.1 per cent, ranging from Quebec at six per cent to Nunavut at 32.9 per cent. B.C. is second worst at 13.4 per cent, followed closely by Northwest Territories (13.2 per cent) and Yukon (13.1 per cent). The next closest province is Ontario, at 12.1 per cent.
A Statistics Canada report published on Nov. 20, 2023, shows unsurprisingly the dramatic intergenerational advantage the adult children of homeowners born in the 1990s have over their peers whose parents weren’t homeowners. Additionally concerning is the findings that “adult children of multiple property owners were nearly three times more likely to be homeowners in 2021 than those whose parents were non-homeowners,” and B.C. has the lowest rate of homeownership of people born in the 1990s in the country.