Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Rising housing costs may price many out of Vancouver: report

A city planners’ report says Vancouver needs to see three times the housing currently available for renters making less than $50,000 a year, as well as double what is currently available for families wanting to rent or buy.

CHRIS HELGREN/REUTERS

Vancouver had almost 10,000 new homes under construction in 2016, a building boom that tops any year of the past half century.

But most of those new homes didn't match what existing city residents can afford.

That's why city planners say Vancouver needs to take a stronger role in shaping its housing supply for the future.

Story continues below advertisement

If it doesn't, there will be increasingly fewer places for singles' households making less than $50,000 or family households making less than $80,000 who are trying to rent.

And an equally scarce situation for households making less than $150,000 who want to own something big enough for a family.

"We see a significant risk to renters," said planner Dianna Hurford, as staff unrolled for councillors a pile of statistics and a preliminary sketch of where the city needs to go next.

That sketch includes a focus on creating streams of housing that match the incomes of people who want to live here: more cheap rentals for singles; more cheap and multibedroom rentals for families; and more types of housing that families who are reasonably well off, but not wealthy, could afford to buy in Vancouver.

The early ideas are to demand more from developers throughout the city to include affordable units within their projects; to encourage more infill; and to keep pushing to get layers of help from the provincial and federal governments to bring down rents in projects.

"We're going to need significantly more help from senior governments to achieve the targets," said the city's director of housing policy, Abigail Bond, emphasizing that Vancouver can't do everything alone.

"We can't spend our way out of this crisis. We don't have enough revenue."

Story continues below advertisement

The city planners' report included data specially commissioned on incomes and housing need in the city.

It says the city needs to see three times the housing currently available for renters making less than $50,000 a year, as well as double what is currently available for families wanting to rent or buy.

The data echoed what employers in the city have been saying recently – that housing costs are getting more and more out of line for people working in the city.

There are 80,000 sales and service jobs in the city that pay about $30,000 a year.

Someone with that kind of work used to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in the city.

Now, it takes an income of about $45,000 a year to be able to afford an older one-bedroom.

Story continues below advertisement

The 50,000 or so people working in the health and sciences sector in the city are better paid, at around $75,000 a year. So they can afford to rent a one-bedroom condo. But they wouldn't have enough money to buy one.

Councillor George Affleck said he didn't know, as he listened to the planners talk, whether to be pleased the city is doing something or depressed about what the situation is like.

Another councillor, Melissa De Genova, said she is concerned that most of the emphasis seemed to be on creating more rental, when there's a huge demand from many young families to be able to buy homes.

Staff are planning to present a final report in July and then kick off a pilot project aimed at fast-tracking a few ideas.

That pilot would include giving affordable housing projects a kind of Nexus lane through the city's notoriously cumbersome permitting process.

Report an error
About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨