Last week, on Wednesday Oct. 3, Vision Vancouver approved the final recommendations of the Mayor’s developer-controlled Task Force on Housing Affordability.
You may have read an Oct. 3rd article in the Province, “City Council in Density Dilemma – ‘Thin Street’ Plan to Provide Affordable Housing Has Some Residents Fuming.” The headline says it all — Vision has succeeded in framing the debate around whether or not residents are prepared to accept increased density in order to produce affordable housing. This assumes that the increased density proposed by Vision Vancouver will actually produce affordable housing. As Brent Toderian, former City of Vancouver planning department chief, said recently, “Only an oversupply of housing will ever reduce the price of market housing.” As we all know, prices for any product, from pencils to houses, only come down if there are more products available than people want. Does that apply to Vancouver’s housing market? Beginning in the early 1970’s various developer-friendly City Councils increased density in the West End, to the point that it is now one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the world. If higher density really did lead to lower prices, housing in the West End would be as cheap as a cup of coffee.
Thin streets and all the other proposals recently put forward by Vision will never come close to oversupplying the market – just as higher density in the West End did not. What we will end up with is the worst of both worlds: increased density and no improvement in the affordability of housing. COPE is not opposed to increased density in and of itself. If City Hall were to capture the increased value of land when rezoned for higher density, and then proceed to use this windfall to build city-owned non-market rental housing, we would finally be on the road to providing affordable housing to Vancouver residents.
I’m always interested to hear your thoughts on this or any other issue. Feel free to use the comments section below and/or get in touch with my by email or phone.