September 22, 2021

Vancouver’s housing crisis woes go national


VANCOUVER — Vancouver’s housing crisis may have an impact on the federal election as a barrage of stories emerged from local news outlets against the backdrop of a three-way election race in British Columbia, and a tight race across the country.

Polling shows the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives are in a tight race in Metro Vancouver. Meanwhile, news reports detailing a Liberal candidate’s history of house flipping and special loans given to developers are likely to resonate with voters in the pricey city, according to observers.

“I think it will issue a certain level of public rage,” Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, said. “It’s going to feed the fires of public concern.”

Steep prices, housing availability and anger over their cause have long been issues in Vancouver, and concerns were ratcheted up over the last week.

On Tuesday, the CBC published a story about B.C. granting 18-year, interest-free loans to a developer to purchase a social housing complex in the city in 2008. The company promised to build new market homes and include a social housing component of 234 units.

Thirteen years later, the CBC reported, just 54 social housing units have been built. It took three years for the broadcaster to obtain the documents via the freedom of information process.

Monday, after a five-year wait for documents under similar legislation, the South China Morning Post’s Vancouver correspondent published a story detailing a secret-study conducted by Revenue Canada in 1996. It showed wealthy migrants purchased 90 per cent of luxury homes in Metro Vancouver while declaring extremely low incomes.

Those two stories came after revelations by local radio station News1130 last week that the Liberal candidate for Vancouver Granville, Taleeb Noormohamed, has flipped 21 homes within a year of purchasing them since 2005 and has sold at least 42 homes in Metro Vancouver over the same time period.

Though the stories are not all related to federal government actions, and go back years, they are likely to have some sway considering the housing anxiety experienced by many voters in Vancouver, Yan said.

“It’s going to be feeding a complication of people’s insecurities in terms of housing, economic insecurity and really their overall sense of the country,” he said. “Across the country you see this kind of age of anxiety.”

Vancouver-based polling company Research Co. released the results of a survey Tuesday showing housing was already the second most pressing issue for voters in B.C. According to the poll, for 20 per cent of British Columbians housing is a top concern.

The poll has the Liberals at 28 per cent support in B.C. with both the NDP and Conservatives at 32 per cent.

(Results were based on an online study conducted from Aug. 28-30 among 1,000 adults with a plus-minus margin of error of 3.1 per cent 19 times out of 20.)

President of Research Co. Mario Canseco said the results suggest in order to win in Vancouver, parties need to connect with voters on their housing strategies.

Canseco said the poll also shows a trend of diverse concerns across the country. Jobs and the economy are more of a concern in Alberta, he said, while in Quebec health care is a big concern.

“The days of a national campaign where you have one big overarching issue that you could talk about everywhere are gone,” he said. “There’s a message that you can use if you’re campaigning in downtown Vancouver that is essentially different from the one that you could have in Calgary or in another place.”

In 2015, the Liberals had a surge in seat-rich Vancouver, going to 17 MPs in the province from two, most of them elected in the city. The Conservatives, who also lost government in the election, lost 11 seats.

In 2019, the Liberals lost six seats while the Conservatives gained seven.

University of British Columbia political science associate professor Gerald Baier said currently Vancouver has the biggest pool of unsafe seats west of Ontario, meaning the city could once again play a role in what Canada’s next government looks like.

“By the time the numbers are tallied it will come down to what happens in a province that’s really competitive between all three parties,” Baier said, adding B.C. sent an “eclectic mix” of MPs from all parties except the Bloc Québécois to Parliament in 2019.

All three major parties have released housing platforms promising more affordable housing in the country. The Liberals have promised to help first-time home buyers and ban foreign buyers for two years, among other policies.

The Conservatives have likewise promised a two-year foreign buyer ban and promised to strengthen money laundering laws. The New Democrats have proposed introducing 30-year mortgages and a 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax.

Yan said, so far, he hasn’t been impressed with what the parties are offering on housing affordability. Local incomes detaching from the housing market is a main issue policies don’t address, he said, along with a lack of stable financial options for retirement.

He said if people don’t need to rely on buying a home as a retirement plan they would be more comfortable renting.





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