affordable housing

decades of housing policy caused the affordability crisis

Editor’s note: In a previous interviewSue Moen from the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness said the roots of our current real estate crisis are in decades of housing policy. The following broadcast, from Vancouver Co-op Radio, explores this idea in more depth.

“The Pulse” @ Vancouver Co-Op Radio, CRFO 100.5 FM, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For Vancouverites, the drastic increase in unaffordability in the city only became an issue in the last 15 years, but an urban affairs reporter says the crisis has its roots in decades of housing policy.

Photo credit: Chris Cheung, urban sociology affairs reporter at The Tyee – Handout

Thousands of houses every year

According to The Tyee urban sociology reporter Chris Cheung, before the 1970s, the federal and provincial governments were building thousands of affordable housing units every year.

“Even before the 1970s, [there was] a consensus that housing is something the government needs to be involved in,” said Cheung.

The federal, provincial, and municipal governments would team up to provide non-market housing, such as social housing and co-op housing, said Cheung.

The cuts to social housing

“Up until the 90s, we saw this partnership work out very well with providing housing for people,” said Cheung. “But in 1993, Paul Martin’s [federal] Liberals… cut funding for all new social housing units.”

That halt in funding caused almost all provinces to cut back significantly on the construction of social housing, said Cheung, except for BC.

However, he noted, when the BC Liberals took power in 2001, they cut back on funding for new social housing.

Top photo credit: Mole Mill House #7, in Vancouver, offered a mixture of subsidized and market rate units – by Joe Mabel via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

2 thoughts on “decades of housing policy caused the affordability crisis”

  1. I believe that the main factor contributing to lack of affordability lies with the speculation on housing that really got going following the 2008 stock market crash when the REALLY BIG investment agencies turned from traditional stocks and bonds to property as a more reliable investment, driving up the prices in many major markets of the world and, of course, many other smaller investors jumped on the bandwagon and away go the prices. Governments have increasingly been under pressure to underwrite the creation of housing for the increasing number of people who can no longer afford to get into the escalating market or cannot afford the rents associated with the increasingly valuable properties.
    All the while that those who have been able to get into the market are making the profits while the taxpayer is again paying the cost.

    1. While I first got into the market, in 1986, I could easily have remained a renter instead. The payments were virtually the same and the only difference was, that after 20 years or so of paying the bank, the house was yours.

      Then the real estate market took off. I remember when you could suddenly sell a house in the Lower Fraser Valley for $200,000 – around 1990. The problem being that if you bought it would be in the same market, so you either needed two houses to cash in on the increased value or had to move out to more remote areas. Houses became an investment that generated a lot of income.

      It is easy to see how someone with more cash, or a company with large amounts of capital, would use the real estate market.

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