Friday, January 09, 2015

How do we get more affordable housing in this region?

The reason housing is so expensive in this region is that there is not enough supply.   This scarcity of supply works very well for the owners of property but not for the people that need a place to live.   If the supply of housing is increased enough the cost of housing will fall or at least not rise for some years.

We should be measuring how many households there are in the CRD and many many new ones are created each year.   Once we know the number we have and by how much we are increasing per year we have a baseline to work from.  

Once we know the current state of things we can set targets of the number of units needed to reduce the price of housing.  A good measure to track the success of this would be from the monthly selling prices of houses in the CRD.   If the price of houses is consistently falling we know housing is getting more affordable.  

One problem of house affordability is that it can not be effectively be fixed in a direct manner by local government - government can not build enough houses to make any serious impact.    The cost of each housing unit is too high for the government to be able to bear.   The low income housing units the government build end up being a defacto lottery win for people who get a place in one of them.  

Low income housing units as part of developments  is a nice idea, but once again there are only a few of them and it is a long waiting list to get into one.   The cost of these units in a development make projects less viable and can at times push projects from being developed to not developed.

What we need to improve housing affordability in the CRD is to remove as many obstacles as possible to more units of housing being built.    We need to allow a lot more flexibility in rentals, not just secondary suites everywhere but even more on a residential property.   Condos should not be allowed to restrict rentals.   Local government could require new condo developments to have covenants allowing rentals without restriction.

We also just need a lot more housing units to be constructed    The first step would be to speed up the process to rezone properties to a higher density.   Each municipality should work out a 20 year plan on where the space for more housing will come from.   Not just an Official Community Plan, but an actual plan that outlines what land is needed, and where, to accomplish the growth in housing.

I would have local government offer property tax holidays based on the sales price per bedroom on a sliding scale.  The idea would be to encourage more inexpensive units to be constructed via this incentive.   We could use several thousand three bedroom homes to be constructed that can be purchased for around $250,000 ASAP.

There also has to be active cooperation from municipalities like Oak Bay, North Saanich, Highlands and Metchosin to deal with the problem.   If these municipalities are not willing to help through increasing housing units in their jurisdiction they should be paying enough money to build the equivalent of a 3% increase in their housing stock per year.  

The biggest reason we are unlikely to see an end to a problem of housing affordability is because there are too many home owners out there that would see large parts of their wealth disappear if the cost of housing were to actually fall enough to make a real difference to anyone.
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