This week, Abundant Housing Vancouver joined with other pro-housing organizations around the province to encourage Premier David Eby to take strong action on housing, especially regarding the points in his housing platform from the NDP leadership race.
You can find our open letter in PDF format here.
Alternatively, the full text is below.
To premier-designate Eby:
British Columbia is experiencing a severe housing crisis, including an acute shortage of housing. The Canadian Mortgage Housing
Corporation estimates a current shortage of over 400,000 homes. This causes ripples across the housing system, contributing to
unaffordability, housing precariousness, and homelessness. Housing scarcity in our urban areas also forces British Columbians into sprawl,
causing long commutes that increase emissions and decrease overall quality of life.
Worryingly, the housing deficit is growing deeper: by 2030, the shortfall is expected to increase to 570,000 homes. Despite this and other
warning signs, municipal governments have failed to act. New housing, including public and non-profit housing, is burdened by
unnecessarily complex and expensive approval processes. Across much of British Columbia’s urban land, municipalities simply make new
We applaud your housing platform, which indicates you are prepared to act quickly to alleviate the housing crisis. We urge you to be bold.
Our housing shortage is the result of decades of under-production of housing. British Columbia needs real reform to the municipal systems
that produced the crisis. The failure of municipalities to build enough homes spills over in the form of worsening affordability to
neighbouring municipalities, their region and the province as a whole. While we strongly encourage municipalities to make reforms,
provincial action is required to address the province-wide nature of the crisis. Solving it will generate province-wide benefits.
We urge the Province to recognize that the scale of the problem requires an ambitious response, including:
Minimum zoning standards. New Zealand enacted national reforms that established minimum zoning standards and legalised
multifamily housing. Their experience shows such direct interventions are an effective way to boost housing production, while also
demonstrating that larger cities require stronger interventions. Legalising three homes per lot will be helpful in many of BC’s smaller
municipalities, but that is already the status quo in Vancouver and has proven inadequate. Further, Vancouver’s Streamlining Rental
Policy has demonstrated that four-floor rental apartments are not economically viable in low density zones. To make an impact, your
government needs to be more ambitious. Six-plexes should be legalised across BC, with at least six-floor buildings allowed in major
urban areas near frequent transit (including Greater Vancouver, Greater Victoria, Abbotsford, Nanaimo, and Kelowna). Additional density
bonuses should be available for buildings with below-market homes.
Robust assessment of housing targets. Any plan that does not result in dramatic increases in actual housing production is a failure.
Housing production must be monitored, with deeper reforms ready if existing measures lead to insufficient outcomes. Housing need
must be assessed using real-world indicia, including rental vacancy rates, housing/job imbalances, and quantity of cost-burdened
households. Current projections and needs assessments that implicitly accept past trends of household displacement are inadequate for
determining new housing targets.
Provincial approvals. Experience from other jurisdictions shows that municipalities will abuse tools such as height, setbacks, heritage
designations, and parking requirements to block new housing. When cities fail to meet their housing targets or raise barriers to new
housing, the Province must be prepared to directly approve housing that meets objective, non-discretionary standards. For example,
housing within a kilometre of rapid transit stops that include below market components ought to be approved directly by the Province,
regardless of municipal hurdles.
Low income housing. The Province’s housing plan should explicitly commit to substantial investments in social housing and other forms
of low income housing. Currently, municipal obstacles to new housing add unnecessary cost, delay, and risk to public and non-profit
housing. The Province needs to both directly fund affordable housing and act to streamline the approval of public and non-profit
Student housing. The Province can rapidly improve the housing situation for students by providing additional loans or grants to
universities to build on-campus housing and allowing substantial rental density on the University Endowment Lands. This would reduce
pressure on local rental markets while other reforms take effect.
Limiting sprawl. We will never meet our climate goals if people are pushed away from existing urban spaces - where jobs and services
are concentrated - to find housing. The successful cities of the 21st century will support transit and complete communities. There is
plenty of room within our cities for more housing. The Province’s housing plan must encourage infill housing, legalise low- and mid-rise
apartments and mixed use buildings, and disincentivize greenfield development.
By committing to these points, the Province can work in partnership with municipal governments to support housing affordability and make
our province a place where all British Columbians can live and flourish. Thank you for your time, attention, and focus on increasing housing
affordability in BC.
Homes for Living YYJ
Abundant Housing Vancouver
Yes In New West
Kitsilano for Inclusivity
Deltans for People Oriented Places