CCPA’s “bold” housing ideas not bold enough to bring real help to Metro’s renters

The New Jubilee: 126 units

The New Jubilee: social housing in Vancouver

Despite the promise to “get serious” about the broken housing market, with “bold affordable housing solutions,” the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives latest policy proposals fall short on both counts.

In particular, yesterday’s policy paper by Marc Lee largely skips over the need — and potential — for a major increase in market rental stock that could give quick assistance to the region’s hundreds of thousands of renters. On the rental side, Lee favours co-op housing and non-profit solutions, both important but a small share of the overall total.

As yesterday’s City of Vancouver housing report card demonstrated, this is an area where even a municipality can trigger the production of thousands of market rental units within the price range of lower and middle income families. Over time, market rental becomes more and more affordable with rents rising more slowly than home ownership costs.

When combined with strict rental replacement requirements, which protect existing stock, such rental construction programs can make a real difference. Neither option gets any assessment in the CCPA proposal.

Some of the CCPA’s main proposals — including inclusionary zoning — have long been City of Vancouver policy. Others, like control of foreign investment, might stop the increase in home ownership costs, but would not add a single unit of affordable housing on their own.

(Lee assumes that new taxes on speculation would put $1 billion or more into provincial coffers for housing, but would that occur if the speculation tax proved effective?)

One Vancouver initiative Lee acknowledges is the community land trust project now under construction to produce 400 units under co-op and non-profit direction. This pilot program is very important, but has already demonstrated that the community land trust model needs careful planning and support to succeed.

That’s why market rental needs to included as part of the continuum of housing affordability policies. Although the CCPA feels enough information is on hand to deal with foreign ownership, it wants more data on Airbnb, despite abundant evidence that such services are driving down rental vacancies and driving up rent.

There’s much to like in the CCPA proposals, but much more could be included.