December 2022 Housing and Safety Report

By Kerry Gibson, Housing and Safety Convenor

As Premier Eby, former Housing Minister, has been sworn into office, housing advocates appeal to his understanding of the housing crisis for a renewed push for mitigation and reform. Eby is urged to review what is occurring in New Zealand regarding changes to minimum zoning standards, noting that New Zealand enacted national reforms that established minimum zoning standards and legalized multifamily housing. They recommend that six-plexes be the minimum standard to be economically viable and sustainable.

Although the housing crisis is highlighted most frequently in an urban Vancouver context, and reflected in the unhoused population in the DTES, the crisis has affected communities across BC. In particular, communities with colleges and universities have been struggling to house students as well as dealing with community push-back on the creation of more student housing, citing NIMBY politics opposed to neighbourhood disruptions they fear young people will bring with such developments.

The Bank of Canada has reported that with increasing interest rates, housing prices will continue to fall through 2023, but not enough to create affordability. Canadian Real Estate Magazine reports that housing supply affordability is driven by a number of factors. With huge immigration numbers fuelling high demand for real estate, it is likely that prices will remain unaffordable for a large number of Canadians. The Bank of Canada is set to continue sustaining rising interest rates through 2023, which keeps mortgage rates higher even as prices start to come down. This will be exacerbated by increasing immigration targets throughout 2023 and 2024. Curbing immigration is not the answer, however. As labour shortages continue to mount, immigration is necessary to drive an economic return. Wages are not being increased in accordance with the increases in cost of living metrics, therefore not keeping up with the increase in inflation.

BC Housing, Kamloops, and Social Services are looking to establish an extreme weather response shelter for vulnerable people. As climate change continues to deliver atypical conditions, these shelters may require more prevalence and permanency than previously established. However, staffing concerns may delay operational readiness. All municipalities will need to continuously review their readiness plans in order to prevent loss of life in extreme conditions.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim is following through on his campaign promise of 100 new police officers and 100 new mental health nurses by tabling a motion to allocate $6 million to the initiative. However, there is concern both within council and from community advocates that there are better and more cost-effective ways of accomplishing the end goal of supporting the public well-being. Hiring would be done by VPD and VCH. The discussion and vote is set for November 23rd.