Mayor Robertson Takes Vancouver Housing Lessons to Sydney

Australia and Canada both “way behind in innovation in government,” says Mayor
Joannah Connolly
September 11, 2017

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has taken the housing affordability lessons he has learned to Sydney, Australia – which he observes is in a “similar predicament.”

On his current visit to Australia’s largest city, the Mayor said that both Australia and Canada were “way behind in innovation in government” and that city councils have few available tools to address housing affordability, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Cities need to have more self-determination and powers to take care of people,” said Robertson. “The symptom of the housing affordability crisis exposes the much bigger structural problem in government that we need to fix.”

Sydney has been named the second-least affordable city in the world, bumping Vancouver into third place and outstripped only by Hong Kong, when comparing average home prices with average local household incomes. Like Vancouver, the city has seen a lot of international and domestic wealth coming into the real estate market, which has pushed up home prices beyond local incomes.

The Australian city has also seen a considerable amount of opposition to new development and densification, despite the desperate need for new housing supply, which Mayor Robertson described as “a delicate balance,” reported the Herald.

"In cities like Vancouver and Sydney, where the growth pressure and global capital are daunting forces, it does pit communities against developers and elected councils."

Mayor Robertson will be sharing the tough housing lessons he has learned from his nine-year tenure as Vancouver mayor in his keynote speech at Sydney's Town Hall on Tuesday evening, September 12.

This will include his council’s failure in its goal to end homelessness in Vancouver by 2015.

"We didn't get there by 2015. In fact, the situation has worsened. It's moved right up into middle income. Now we're deploying new tools," he said, according to the Herald.

Robertson said this was partly due to a lack of support from provincial and federal governments, the Herald reported. He said, “When those two levels of government don't take care of business, the impact is in the city.”

Vancouver’s “new tools” to tackle housing affordability include building new “affordable” housing linked to residents’ incomes, freeing up City-owned land to build further affordable housing, introducing the Empty Homes Tax, and banning short-term rentals such as AirBnB in all properties other than principal residences.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.