As the cost of housing continues to rise, the idea of home ownership continues to get farther out of reach for many British Columbians, which B.C. Premier David Eby says should not be acceptable.
“I was in Singapore recently on a trade mission, and here’s a tiny island nation with 10s of millions of people, they have 90 per cent home ownership, and that is because the government said, ‘we’re going to make home ownership for Singaporeans a priority. We’re setting up a housing authority that’s going to build up that housing for Singaporeans, and we’re just going to build it and do it’ and they started in the 70s,” Eby said.
“The way they’re doing it in Seoul, I was in Korea as well, is controlling some of the cost of land so the land often is publicly owned, and it’s either leased land that’s owned by the public on a long term lease to the people who own their homes or it remains publicly owned and you just own your property on the public land. And that’s a huge opportunity for us in British Columbia. One of the biggest things driving the cost of housing is the cost of the land.”
Leo Spalteholz, an independent housing analyst, says he believes that for places like Victoria or Vancouver, the dream of a single-family detached home for people without generational wealth is dead.
“Is the dream for the middle class of owning a detached home in Vancouver, Victoria, some of our biggest cities dead? Yes, I actually believe it is,” Spalteholz said.
“Unfortunately, there is very little the province or anybody else, any level of government can do about the price of a detached home. There’s only so much land available, there’s so much demand, those things are going up, they are going to get less affordable over time.”
However, Spalteholz says investing in increased density could mean that the dream of other types of home ownership could still be within reach for most.
“You should absolutely be able to own a townhouse or a condo that’s of appropriate size that fits even families,” Spalteholz said. “That is not dead, I think that’s completely up to us whether it’s dead. Yes, if we continue our current system, it’s also dead. But it doesn’t have to be that way, It’s up to us.”
Eby’s government is currently looking to put pressure on municipalities to build more housing and increased density as a way to address housing prices.
“The law that we passed that allows us to set these targets and allows us to set the requirements for local governments as well as for ourselves you know, we’re pointing to ourselves as well and saying provincial permits have to come along faster,” Eby said.
“But those specific targets can be as discreet as particular neighbourhoods, specific types of housing like townhomes or rental homes are affordable housing, and so it could be anything from a specific location to a specific type of housing, because we do have challenges with communities that refuse to approve certain types of housing.”
Spalteholz says he is happy to see the province using a “carrot and stick method” but worries it still may not move fast enough.
“I’m worried about the timelines, I wish a it was broader than 10 municipalities, and I’m worried that the sticks won’t arrive soon enough. And I think we really have to, given the scope of the problem, I would actually rather see the province just say, ‘Hey, this is the minimum zoning restrictiveness that you can allow,'” Spalteholz said.
“You need to allow missing middle, you need to allow six floors near transit, all that kind of stuff, and that’s just it. That’s the minimum standard. You cannot get in the way of that.”
Eby says the goal of the government is to continue collaborating with municipalities to increase housing, but that it will be there to push along hesitant municipalities.
“Take the worst case scenario, a community that just doesn’t want to do this,” Eby said.
“The law does provide that the province can go in through an appointee, it’s a designate of the minister who goes in and is an expert in the area and looks at where the housing can go and the kind of housing that’s needed and deems through the provincial government, that that housing is allowed to be built in certain parts of the city and essentially goes around the city.”
For the South Island, Spalteholz says the good news is that the problem isn’t as bad as it is in Vancouver, though it could get there if action isn’t taken.
“In Vancouver, we are so far beyond townhouses being affordable, forget it, they need to be talking about, not missing middle but missing mid-rise,” Spalteholz said.
“They need to be talking about six floors, 12 floors. In Victoria, we do have a lot of land that’s just single family right now, there’s plenty of room of infill, we see townhouses, you can still get them to the semi-affordable levels.”
“But I think Vancouver is kind of the the ghost of Victoria future. If we don’t do anything, that’s where we end up.”
In addition to housing, This is VANCOLOUR’s Mo Amir and B.C. Premier David Eby spoke about the overdose crisis and the impact of artificial intelligence. Watch the full conversation below: