Friday, June 06, 2008

Reducing Homelessness

The CMHC revealed today that Victoria has the lowest vacancy rate in Canada.

We also are dealing with more homelessness issues here than ever before.

House prices are also high, too high for our own good.

These high prices have been created by a largely local government induced scarcity in housing through interference in the market with planning restrictions and growth management ideas.

There is a simple solution. A lot more housing units need to be built. Allow more density, allow new lands to be built on with few or no restrictions. Pull land out of the ALR to allow houses to be built. Scrap the urban containment boundary.

Every action taken that makes it harder to develop a property, every charge that has to be borne by a developer, every time delay, all restricts the housing supply. Restrictions to the housing supply increases the cost of housing and keeps rentals at a minimum.

Over the next five years we need to add somewhere around about 6000 housing units just to hold steady. In reality we need to add closer to 15 000 over that time to make a dent in housing prices and improve the rental market.

There is no shortage of flat farmlands in Saanich which could be home to thousands of houses. The farm lands in the Blenkinsop valley and out interurban could house almost all of the increases needed.

These lands would be better used as housing now and not for fallow farming or Galley farm amusement park operations. The problems at Panama Flats that the farmer is having with Saanich is a clear indication that farming close to the city is not going to allowed to be done in sort of an economic manner. The best use for these lands is for housing.

Both locations are better situated than anywhere else in the CRD to provide for more housing for people that is well situated to where people might work. Much better than more people in the western communities.

With enough houses built, there will be units coming up for rental. As the price of houses come down because of the higher supply and a clear indication that there will not be another planning induced scarcity as we have at the moment, then there will be more interest in building for rental and using units for rentals.

With more rentals, there will be a higher vacancy rate and this will reduce rents in the city. Lower rents will mean more people can afford to rent units and less desirable renters will be able to rent units again.

The city of Victoria can do some innovative things to increase the housing stock within the city. Allow automatic approval of any property subdivision if the lots remain over 3000 sq feet, and give approval in a matter of a two to three weeks.

Allow in street housing - this means building on existing streets. There are a lot of streets that should be made into cul-de-sacs and putting a house into the current street to make the cul-de-sac is the best to go about it.

Reduce the front of house set backs to the street to five feet. This would make small lots much more useful for people by putting the majority of the greenspace into one part of the yard.

Allow people to build houses with two or three units within it without any zoning or planning restrictions.

Increase the floor to space ratio of lots so that more house and more units in a house can be built on a lot.

Guarantee building approval in less than one week if no zoning changes are needed.

Change building permits costs to reflect the actual cost of the work of the inspectors. Every dollar spent on the permits increases housing costs with no benefit to anyone.

The more units that can be built for the least cost will make the fastest change to problems with housing in this city.

As a quick codicil, as much as many people may hate Bear Mountain, it is at least offering more housing and easing housing supply problems in the city. When someone moves from Fairfield to Bear Mountain, someone can move from Fernwood to Fairfield and then there is an empty house in Fernwood. Each housing unit built is part of the housing chain and a unit at the top will do as much for housing issues as one at the bottom end, though the top end ones cost government nothing to build.
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