A focus on housing affordability is a key priority in the major party platforms in the lead-up to September’s federal election. But without detailed plans to turn those promises into action that will increase supply, campaign promises will lead to municipal bottlenecks, failed policy and disappointed homebuyers, says the British Columbia Real Estate Association.

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“We are pleased to see the discussions around housing affordability take centre stage during the election campaign,” says BCREA chief executive officer Darlene Hyde. “However, what we’ve seen promised so far falls short of what is needed to make a significant, long-lasting impact. It is important for our new government to make creating a comprehensive housing strategy focused on increasing supply an immediate top priority.”

The association says that many of the measures proposed so far focus on increasing consumer flexibility and purchasing power “and while the Liberals and Conservatives have lofty goals to build more market homes, neither of the parties addresses how they will do so in the face of significant barriers. To adequately increase supply, establishing a federal housing strategy – one that incentivizes municipalities to speed up development approvals that are getting bogged down by public hearings, which cater to airing the grievances of a vocal minority – is key to scaling up the number of units being built in the relative short term,” says BCREA.

The association says it supports assistance for home buyers and the creation of non-market housing, but without detailed plans on increasing supply across the housing spectrum these measures will likely be met with disappointment as prospective buyers will experience a market that can’t meet their demand, causing continued upward pressure on prices.

“We know through our assessment of the current and historical market conditions that there just aren’t enough listings to satisfy demand,” says BCREA chief economist Brendon Ogmundson. “To truly improve housing affordability and help British Columbians and Canadians get in homes, increasing supply is where the focus needs to be. Working with municipalities is essential in achieving this.”

The association says, “Developing the details of these plans needs to be an immediate focus for our new government. Otherwise their promises to help more Canadians achieve their homeownership dreams will fall flat.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. How self-serving can we (realtors etc) be. The “problem” cannot be solved simply by increasing supply. The entire subject needs to be addressed. True, supply is a component, but so is demand. Isn’t it time we looked at the whole subject from the top to the bottom. Lets ask ourselves – since prices are still going up and there is no shortage of buyers – where is the money coming from. Why can some people afford homes and others cannot even dream about it. Patching one hole wont save the roof.

  2. What you wrote is definitely a mission-critical bottleneck which touches on the overarching issue that the housing crisis cannot be resolved with the government organized as it is today. The USA suffered a calamitous event in Sept 2001 because their government security apparatus wouldn’t communicate with each other. To solve the housing supply issue requires a vertically-integrated government agency that can cross the “power” lines of federal, provincial and municipal governments, which is what I believe you start to write.

    There needs to be a central authority that can take the $40 billion federal housing budget and compel needed changes at the provincial level where most housing legislation occurs, and at the municipal level where most housing construction occurs. None of these government levels are cooperating with each other because they’re all fighting to protect their territory and centres of control at the expense of their housing-strapped charges (citizens).

    But there are many more causal issues affecting housing supply as well. I’ve identified 11 primary causes (so far) that cross political boundaries and all have to be addressed to improve housing supply.

    Unhappily, incentives for first-time buyers is a bit of a paradox. The more first time buyers you have in the market, the greater the increase in demand. That increased demand in the wake of unavailable inventory (supply) drives up prices so the first-time buyer incentives only serve to push housing prices further out of their reach.

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