Premier Clark: Why has the price of housing in British Columbia risen beyond the reach of both the middle and working classes?

British Columbia is in a housing crisis. Will provincial government leaders seeking election promise to return home ownership to the people?

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The $35,000, 5-year loan for first-time owners you are campaigning on doesn’t pass muster. A guaranteed $350,000 price tag for a cottage on a 4,000 square foot lot would return affordable homes to BC.

The housing crisis in British Columbia was triggered by successive provincial government actions that spiked the price of land. Reversing that trend will necessitate walking back the conflicted provincial government policy.

This is how we got here:

1. The laws of land economics state that:

(A) The price of land remains more or less constant; only improvements (building on the land) raise the value of a property.

– or –

(B) When disproportionate amounts of private and public investment combine in restricted footprints of land, too much investment in one place can distort surrounding land prices.

2. The residential towers that built on the Expo ’86 site were baked-into the plan for the fair. Expo was not so much a “transportation” fair as we were told, but a “towers-and-skytrain” fair. Over the next 30 years where ever local governments zoned towers in the metro Vancouver region and elsewhere in the province upward pressure was generated on the price of the surrounding land.

3. In terms of both property development and transportation, towers-and-skytrain represent the most expensive investments possible. After 30 years of building towers-and-skytrain the price of a house on a lot in Vancouver is $2.2 million and in Coquitlam, an outlying suburb, $1.2 million. These are irrefutable signs that price contagion from tower and skytrain sites to the neighborhoods at large is taking place. Provincial government measures are now needed to reverse course.

4. Regional governments instituted by the Legislative Assembly pushing the policy of “building up instead of out” and 30 years of building towers-and-skytrain, have combined with offshore capital flows to spike land prices throughout metro Vancouver and British Columbia.

5. Back in the 1970s the same Social Credit party that had opposed the ALR removed that legislation’s special provisions as soon as it regained control of government. These provisions included special considerations for building tram towns along transportation corridors. Without the special provisions the Agricultural Land Reserve act became a de facto land ban effectively constricting the supply of land and putting upward pressure on land prices.

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Owning a house on a lot has been put beyond the reach of both the middle and the working classes. The Canadian Dream is on hold in BC and no one is sure whether we can ever get it back again. The best hope to return home ownership to the people would start by reversing the underlying provincial government mandates:

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1. Ban towers. Restrict residential condo construction to human scale (3 stories in height). Building high density has only served to spike the price of land throughout the province.

2. Build modern tram providing fast and efficient public transportation at a fraction of the cost of Skytrain.

3. Build ‘tram towns’ on tram stops along both new and feral transportation corridors flooding the market with affordable cottages on 4,000 square foot lots.

4. Revitalize arterials and highway strips into mixed-use neighbourhood spines.

5. Incentivize electric cars, electric car infrastructure, and private homes using renewable energy.

The future is green, but will it be greenwash for British Columbia? If multinationals, real estate and banks are given free reign to control our future, then no one outside the top one-half of one percent will be able to own the place they call home. Condos may be popular in Hong Kong, London and New York City. But most families in British Columbia want a cottage on a lot to call their own.

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