Tackling the affordability crisis is something at the forefront of mind for many in my generation. I worked as the Director of Communications & Government Relations at the Trust for Sustainable Development and my years there working directly for David Butterfield taught me a great deal about development, sustainability, and urban planning.
As I pointed out in my Letter to the Times Colonist in May, municipal politicians deserve the majority of blame for the affordability crisis we now find ourselves in. Too many local politicians have been sitting at the decision-making table for decades, impeding progress by shooting down projects, scaling back proposals and delaying developments. This, along with catering to special interest groups and a vocal minority laid the groundwork for today's housing crisis.
The situation cannot be turned around overnight, but I believe there are several things that can be done at the municipal level to right the ship and start moving in a positive direction. Increasing supply and ensuring an appropriate stock of housing units and balance throughout the full spectrum of housing options is absolutely vital. This can be achieved through gentle density increases, focusing on addressing the lack of so-called "Missing Middle" or multi-unit/clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family dwellings. A two-storey townhouse on a single lot doesn't alter the character of a neighbourhood but still contributes to a density increase.
If you have more predictability, development applications will take less time to get approved/rejected and that is less money sunk into any given project before shovels are even in the ground. Economic uncertainty plays a major factor in project costs and unit pricing when permits and approvals take over a year to process. According to a recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute, fees, zoning regulations, and red tape have added $264,000 to the price of a single-family home in Victoria between 2007 and 2016. Unsurprisingly, that cost is passed straight on to the consumer, thus raising home prices.
While a municipal government cannot tackle things like interest rates which also significantly contribute to rising home prices, we can look to reduce some of these extra costs imposed upon builders for the betterment of both sides as well make sure that projects are denied or approved in a timely manner than respects all parties.
I am also a strong proponent of Zoning Reform to give residents and builders realistic expectations and predictability about the future of their neighbourhoods.