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Board of Trade issues report endorsing “missing middle” forms of housing and alternatives to home ownership

April 19th, 2017 · 9 Comments

I have to say, it’s a sign of the times that 350 people, many from the business and development community, would turn out to a five-hour session on housing policy. But that’s what they did yesterday, when the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade organized a set of panels to go along with a report they issued on housing solutions.

My story in the Globe that condenses it all is here, plus I tweeted throughout yesterday, for those who missed it.

As I noted a couple of times, the report is exclusively focused on supply, to the dismay of those who believe that demand controls are part of the solution. And there were some people talking about the need for local residents to alter their expectations, which produced some scathing pushback on Twitter.

But the report showed there is a slightly different approach to supply these days. It’s not just build more condos. There’s a big emphasis on rental, a form that does help keep some housing out of the speculative-investor market. And there were even references to alternative models of home ownership, the kind usually espoused by small housing collectives or non-profit groups. Things like shared-equity ownership models, cohousing, and more.


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  • Look Deeper

    Caveat – I have not read the VBofT report but I have listened to the VBofT Chair on CBC interviewed to explain its contents.

    I was extremely disappointed that the VBofT continues to spin the simplistic mantra of supply. This organization more than others should be able to present a more sophisticated analysis of the situation.

    There is no amount of supply that will be able to soak up the amount of capital sloshing around the world at the moment that is looking for any return greater than the nominal interest rates being offered in traditional investments. This capital is massive and has become very mobile.

    Meanwhile the sluggish traditional economy requires super-low interest rates.

    Net impact — an unprecedented amount of capital being diverted into real estate investment both residential and commercial. Prices in both segments are at record highs and well beyond traditional valuation metrics.

    Governments and policy makers have been negligently slow in responding to this new reality — probably hoping that it was temporary and that it would pass. Perhaps we should not fault them for this conservative approach. After all, intervention in markets is not an easy thing for Government to do right and it is far from easy to get political consensus for such actions.

    However for an organization such as VBofT to go back to “it is all about supply” is pretty much an insult to anyone’s intelligence.

    Their other proposals re directing development into housing forms that have some form of “natural inoculation” against speculative investment have merit and should be examined further.

  • Kirk

    I’ve said this before — imagine if we were talking about food instead of shelter. Imagine the Board of Trade having a room full of suits sitting for 5 hours talking about the best soil to grow lettuce. Imagine seeing ads all over the radio, TV, newspapers, Internet, the bus(!) with beautiful, smiling food “agents” and “brokers” touting that we need to “Buy now!”

    Everywhere I go in this city, people are hustling real estate. So, what does that tell you? It tells you that none of these people are treating real estate as shelter. They’re not sitting in a conference for 5 hours because they’re interested in a place to live. To them, it’s all about investments and making money. That’s the problem.

    They can talk all they want about “supply”. But, until you get rid of all the investors treating our shelter like a stock market, we will never have enough supply. And, it will never be affordable — there’s just too much money to be made.

    Unfortunately, by doing this, we’ve finally realized that we’re destroying neighbourhoods and the fabric of our city. Everyone feels so transient now. No one is putting down roots and thinking about what we want for our block party or community centre. Instead, it’s all about get in, get out. Property values have become more important than community values. Development planning has become more important than neighbourhood planning.

  • Look Deeper

    Hear. Hear. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Everyman

    The Board of Trade marches to the real estate industry drum like everything else in this sorry city. No one wants to upset the applecart of laundered Chinese money buying up the city.

  • penguinstorm

    Do you think supply is *not* part of the problem?

  • Look Deeper

    In this case supply is not the major cause of the problem.

  • Lewis_N_Villegas

    The possible solutions to the housing crisis in our region, and elsewhere in our province, in my view originate with actions of the Legislative Assembly—not local councils. Correcting course will most likely have to be resolved by provincial government action as I argue here.

  • A Taxpayer

    Perhaps it is time for the City of Vancouver to examine how the City itself contributes to the high cost of housing.

  • penguinstorm

    That was not the question. Do you have any evidence to back your assertion?