The prevailing narrative about a housing shortage seems to unfairly target immigrants.
When the Canadian government unveiled its initiative to issue 500,000 permanent residencies per year by 2025, critics warned about insufficient housing. These claims, prompted by fears about soaring rental prices or driven by anti-immigration bias, are based on supply-and-demand theory, providing a scapegoat for policymakers.
There is no doubt that the supply-and-demand theory is correct. But that doesn’t get politicians off the hook. Make it easier for developers to provide more housing!
Consider this analogy. You’ve been waiting for ages for the city bus to arrive. When it eventually pulls up to the bus stop, you tap your card, wincing at the newly inflated fare. Looking around, you find the bus crowded, leaving you standing uncomfortably for a longer, more expensive journey. Would you blame each new person who got on the bus for this issue?
Real Estate Friendly Policies in BC
So, who should be held responsible? In this analogy, there is a need for additional buses and drivers. However, acquiring them requires financial resources. The source of funding remains uncertain, but the bus passengers should not be blamed.
In all the years of debate over high childcare costs, I don’t recall anyone suggesting that immigrant families were burdening the system. Perhaps this is because anyone entering a childcare center can see that immigrant workers are part of the solution, not the problem.
Advocacy led to government action. After long battles, childcare fees began to fall, not due to decreased demand but due to the government’s intervention, providing British Columbia with the necessary funding.
But when it comes to house prices, immigrants seem to be under a negative spotlight once again.
BC’s Housing Shortage
Frequently, we hear that surging house prices and escalating rents are due to a housing shortage, leading some to question whether immigrants will exacerbate the issue. But the crux of the matter remains governmental negligence.
In the 1990s, the federal government transferred the housing issue to the provinces, and BC further shifted the burden onto municipalities.
As a result, public housing construction ceased and purpose-built apartment buildings became scarce. Condo developments proliferated, providing lucrative investment opportunities, yet proving less ideal for affordable housing.
During this period, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) shifted its focus from affordable housing towards ensuring the efficiency of the housing finance market. This essentially translated into broadening access to mortgages, inflating house prices without adding a single individual to the nation.
The real estate industry needs
BC’s population growth has been predictable. If our governments weren’t so focused on catering to real estate industry needs, they would have devised—and executed—appropriate plans.
Going forward, the Canadian government needs to retake the reins on housing.
Despite the initial optimism around the National Housing Strategy, the results have been underwhelming. Patchwork funding for non-market housing providers and excessive incentives for private developers are not adequate solutions.
CMHC should strive to assist non-market providers grappling with high-interest rates, enabling them to compete effectively in property acquisition.
The BC government must cease exacerbating the situation. Rent controls should be fortified, not dismantled. The Residential Tenancy Branch needs to do what is best for society, not merely speed up processes. Affordable housing should be prioritized over profit-driven zoning.
Real Estate Friendly Policies
City councillors across British Columbia must show bravery, leveraging their regulatory power to guide developers towards creating housing that truly meets the needs of their cities, rather than succumbing to developers’ threats and complaints of insolvency.
The solutions are not unknown. It is the will of elected politicians in BC to prioritize the interests of their constituents over those of the real estate industry that is lacking, and that is entirely unrelated to the demographic makeup of our population.
Immigrants are not the problem, BC’s politicians are.