There has been a lot of talk lately on the need for more affordable housing, with B.C.’s housing minister accusing cities of dragging their feet and putting up too many hurdles for new developments.
David Eby is right, of course, when he says more action is needed to deal with the deepening crisis. But the minister is wrong to lay the blame entirely at the feet of his municipal counterparts.
The truth of the matter is governments at the national, provincial and local levels have done precious little to tackle the housing crisis. There have been plenty of ribbon-cutting ceremonies at affordable housing projects, but the roots of this crisis are far too deep to be solved by a sprinkling of units in cities with near-zero vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents.
Victoria council deserves credit for its new policy allowing housing projects owned and operated by non-profit, co-operative or government agencies to secure the maximum allowable density for a development’s proposed site without first gaining council approval. Other local municipalities are also considering the idea. But it’s nowhere near enough. Not when there’s thousands of units off-limits to those in need of a home.
Inside Airbnb, which tracks Airbnb listings, estimates there are 3,156 listings in Greater Victoria, with the vast majority (85 per cent) comprising entire homes or apartments. Those listings alone would nearly meet the 2,900 units needed according to the CRD’s housing needs assessment.
Inside Airbnb founder Murray Cox suggests measures from banning un-hosted short-term rentals to capping the number of days a host could be absent from their short-term rental property. Those measures could put a dent in the number of affordable rentals. Or B.C. could steal a page from New Zealand and do away with single-family zoning in its most expensive cities.
But that might not sit well with those who have become addicted to the short-term rental income or double-digit property value increases.
And any measure that might affect property values or income would be a hard sell for many homeowners and the politicians who are beholden to their votes.
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