Affordable housing? Not if Elizabeth Murphy can help it


Vancouver proposes to make all new housing serve affordability goals.

According to community activist and former planner Elizabeth Murphy, anyone hoping for action to produce affordable housing in Vancouver should forget it.

Murphy’s weekend op-ed in the Vancouver Sun condemns Vancouver’s Housing Re:set as more of the same old status quo. But when you get right down to it, the status quo is her preferred option.

We can’t solve the problem with supply, she declares, but how she proposes to house a growing population without more supply remains a mystery. (Neither I or my Vision colleagues has ever suggested supply could solve the problem on its own, but without new supply, nothing will change.)

Introduce a very successful rental housing program producing more than 1,000 units a year? Vancouver has one, now producing more than half the rental housing in the entire region,  but Murphy acts like it doesn’t exist. Set firm targets for social housing, as Vancouver does? Not on her radar.

Create an interim rezoning program to encourage extra units, if affordable, along arterials? Vancouver is doing it, but Murphy doesn’t like it.

Open up the discussion about more townhomes and rowhouses in single family neighbourhoods? Vancouver is doing just that, but the effort is futile, she says, because the new homes won’t be affordable. Yet the purpose of the Housing Re:set it to ensure that they are.

Most real solutions are beyond the city’s power, Murphy claims, even though Vancouver’s actions to curb short-term rentals and tax empty homes are now being studied by cities across Canada.

Vancouver’s Housing Re:set is far from “more of the same,” as Murphy claims. It will define hard targets, for the first time, to link new construction to particular income groups not being served by the current programs or the private market.

When you get right down to it, Murphy likes the status quo, where low-density, single-family neighbourhoods are kept out of the housing affordability debate.