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Greater Victoria, BC News

ARTICLE

Date ArticleType
2/2/2015 Published Article
Mandatory Affordable Housing: Solution or Problem?

Affordable housing, and the lack thereof, is a significant issue for residents of Greater Victoria as well as the business community. As unemployment rates remain low in the region, employers are finding increasing difficulty in attracting workers due to our high cost of living. In the 2014 Vital Signs report, almost 50 per cent of those surveyed said they were paying more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. An additional 11 percent said they pay more than 50 per cent on housing costs. The common threshold considered affordable is appending less than 30 per cent of household income on housing. More needs to be done to ensure affordable housing is available in our community.

Municipal leaders have suggested the idea of mandatory affordable housing units for all new housing projects. While this may seem like an easy solution; this may not be the affordable housing panacea that some may think it is.

While we all agree that affordable housing is an issue, one not easily fixed by any level of government, we have concerns that this solution does not directly address the core issue, which is low housing stock in our current market. That solution may also have the unintended consequences of driving prices up. For instance, if new developments are mandated to create a certain percentage of “low income units,” what happens to the rest of the units? With a lack of housing supply currently available on the market, market systems would dictate that it may in turn increase the cost of the remaining units. So, for middle income earners, this could mean potentially increasing housing costs. With already exorbitant housing costs, this is not a solution and may actually make housing less affordable for many. Alternatively, increasing the number of units (supply) will bring costs down.

We still need a solution to our affordable housing crisis. Municipalities can add more than 30 per cent to housing costs through regulatory processes. Reducing these costs can assist in housing costs. We need more availability in the market and need to pursue policies that will encourage developers to build in our community. Everything from houses, to condos to rentals. Not until we address these obstacles as well as attract these types of investments in to our community will we begin to see a change in affordability.

Bruce Carter CEO, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce

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