A mixed group of industry and political leaders gathered for a well-balanced panel discussion on Vancouver housing affordability at a UBC Sauder School of Business-organized event May 24.
The panel, organized by UBC professor Tom Davidoff, tackled the issue of increasingly expensive local real estate and discussed a range of proposed solutions, including wholesale rezoning, dramatically increased densities and demand-side measures.
Chair Tom Davidoff was supported in his call for extensive rezonings of single-family neighbourhoods by Cam Good of Key Marketing, who asserted that building many more townhomes was the best solution for affordable family housing.
“Current townhome prices in Vancouver seem expensive, but this is evidence of a lot of demand and a lack of supply,” he added.
Good noted in an aside that one of the underground parking spots in the Key Marketing-sold Churchill townhome development sold for $60,000 – “again, this speaks to demand,” said Good.
He also suggested that real estate and development was behind in its use of available technologies, such as those used by online dating and travel companies. Good proposed that the industry take a leaf from eHarmony’s book by asking potential home buyers to set out their home needs and desires, so that developers can supply them with appropriate homes with minimal risk.
Mukhtar Latif, the City of Vancouver’s chief housing officer, set out the City’s plans for increasing density and agreed with Good that townhomes were the ideal solution for family housing and yet currently make up only three per cent of Vancouver’s housing stock.
Read the second in our series by Michael Geller on affordable housing solutions for Vancouver
Opposed to the increased-density-as-solution viewpoint was NDP MLA David Eby, who said, “Density on its own will not bring affordability to Vancouver.” He pointed to cities across the globe where extreme densities can still equate to severe unaffordability, such as Macau and Hong Kong.
Eby added that he believed the potential for far more overseas investment in local real estate was currently underestimated, and that waiting foreign buyers would simply snap up any new homes as fast as they could be built. He cited an REW.ca article on real estate crowdfunding coming to BC as highlighting one of the new ways in which overseas buyers are investing in local real estate.
“The idea that we can outbuild foreign capital just doesn’t work,” said Eby.
Advocating caution above wholesale rezoning was neighbourhood conservation activist Cindy Brennais, who said that the rate of change along the Cambie Corridor was “alarming” and that smaller, slower test cases needed to be carried out to ensure the preservation of character homes.