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All federal parties fall short on housing affordability promises: UBC researchers

Last Updated Sep 9, 2021 at 11:31 am MDT

FILE -- A sold sign is pictured outside a home in Vancouver on June, 28, 2016. Experts are expressing doubt a property transfer tax on foreign buyers that takes effect Tuesday will have a significant impact on housing affordability in Metro Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Generation Squeeze Research Lab at UBC has been analyzing all of the housing promises by all of the parties

A Vancouver-based research group says no federal party jas a platform that will 'restore housing affordability for all'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — How do the platforms of Canada’s federal parties stack up when it comes to housing affordability? That’s the question Vancouver-based researchers are trying to help voters answer in the lead-up to the 2021 election.

The Generation Squeeze Research Lab at UBC has been analyzing all of the housing promises by all of the parties, and found none are proposing to do enough.

Paul Kershaw says the group has identified 15 separate actions government would need to take in order to “restore housing affordability for all.” The group’s in-depth study evaluated the party platforms in three major areas: how is non-market housing going to be scaled up, how would the parties fix the regular market, and how they would they address ever-rising home values.

“There’s no silver bullet to restore affordability, but there can be silver buckshot. On the one hand, we want to scale up the supply of not-for-profit housing, housing that’s available through co-ops or rental or social housing below what the market typically charges. We also need to be fixing the regular market because that’s still where the majority of Canadians are going to find their homes,” he says, noting that about 5 per cent of Canadians live in non-market housing which means even if supply were quadrupled most will remain at the mercy of the market.

“So, we need to dial down some harmful kinds of demand where people are treating housing, not as a place to call home, but as an investment strategy. We need to dial-up the right kinds of supply, and we need to make sure we’ve got sufficient protections for renters who are increasingly being squeezed in our housing system.”

RELATED: Metro Vancouver home prices will continue to climb in years to come: CMHC

Cooling off the hot housing market in regions like the Lower Mainland is something Kershaw says can’t be ignored.

“Many of us, especially in Metro Vancouver, have become quite inclined to think rising home prices are not all that terrible: it makes me wealthier, it gives me more capital, it gives me more security more choices. But what’s making me more affluent and more secure means those who work just as hard as me, who are just as smart as me but who are younger than me, have fewer options. I don’t think that’s the legacy we want to leave for our kids and grandchildren any longer.”

While no party offers the complete package, Kershaw says the Liberals plan is the most comprehensive, delivering on two-thirds of the action items. The Greens and NDP both come through on a third — with the emphasis being put on delivering not-for-profit housing. The Conservatives are promising action on one-quarter, with a focus on addressing issues in the market.

“The Liberals who’ve had the privilege of being in office over the last six years, they’ve come to realize they need to do more of both — and they are. That’s why their platform stands at this point further ahead towards achieving our goal of taking up all 15 action items in our policy framework,” Kershaw explains.

“We can anticipate that we will be going forward with a new federal government that isn’t yet committed to effectively saying ‘To restore affordability for all we really need home prices to stall so that earnings have a chance to catch up,’ We need parties to reorient all policies to try and achieve that goal. None of them are quite yet doing that, and that is the sadness of the party platforms.”

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He notes both the Conservatives and the Liberals are promising a two-year moratorium on foreign buyers, while the NDP and Greens are proposing to offer renters some relief.

“There are a range of good ideas, but there are not a sufficient, comprehensive, number of good ideas all coming together in one single platform that can make us confident to say, ‘In the years ahead, we really can imagine getting a handle on the home prices and restore affordability forever,'” he says.

“That’s the key challenge. No one’s quite grappling with the cultural reality that Canadians have been ambivalent about what we want from our housing system. We wanted two things that are incompatible — we wanted housing to be a place to call home, and we wanted it to be a good return on investment.”

Kershaw says housing affordability remains top of mind for people in Metro Vancouver who continue pay some of the highest rents and home prices in the country, and that the region should lead the way in pressing “more loudly than any other region” for action from all levels of government.

Read the full report online.