Housing affordability is a chronic issue that affects Canadian municipalities from 50,000 to 5 million. British Columbia has faced particular challenges in providing affordable housing, including rental, due to factors such as foreign ownership, polarized incomes, and a highly desirable climate. The City of Vancouver has introduced initiatives to provide rental housing in the city, like its Secured Market Rental Policy (2012), which combines incentives for developers to encourage them to develop 100% rental projects and guarantees their affordability for 60 years or the life of the building. Over half of the City’s residents are renters.
Premier Christy Clark, in the run-up to a May 2017 election, just announced that her government will approve construction of 2,900 rental units by March. In August, the province’s 15% tax on foreign-owned property in the province took effect, and Clark is proposing to use this revenue to fund the new rental units. The federal government also recently announced it will spend $150 million on affordable housing in the province.
These initiatives at the municipal and provincial level only highlight the intense need for affordable housing everywhere, not just in major cities. A long-term commitment to affordability, such as secured rental housing or assistance developing new co-operatives, is critical at the federal and provincial levels in order to support municipal initiatives. Without them, cities like Vancouver and Toronto face the most severe pressure to raise their own money to fund affordable housing, like Vancouver’s proposal to tax homes that are left vacant year-round.