A Candidate's Perspective
As a candidate for North Saanich Council, it’s been impossible not to notice how the housing affordability topic dominates public and private discussions. I would like to offer some thoughts about how we got here.
The Global economic collapse of 2006-10 was triggered by intense housing speculation and debt over-reach. Many Americans lost their homes and the money they’d invested in them. Canadians largely escaped that pain, but we didn’t take the lesson seriously.
Prolonged, extremely low interest rates in Canada, coupled with our human fear of missing out have pushed housing prices higher and higher. People have been encouraged to go into greater debt than ever before, outbidding ourselves to buy it, confident that real estate always goes up.
That’s not always true.
Since the beginning of the year, the Bank of Canada rate has risen from 0.25% to 3.25 and housing prices are falling accordingly. Those who bought at the height of the market in the middle of the pandemic are the most hurt. However, anyone who needs to renew their mortgages at higher rates, will also suffer.
Many Canadians have been pleased to watch their houses gain in value and have felt enriched because of it.
However, everything has consequences. Seniors and others on low or fixed incomes, as well as young people without the benefit of wealthy parents to draw on, have been the most impacted. What does it say about our values, when we celebrate an economic gain that damages our seniors and youth?
Municipal governments cannot affect national economic policy, but they are affected by its consequences and they do what they can to mitigate them. North Saanich mayors have served on the Greater Victoria Homeless Coalition, established in 2008. Since 2005 North Saanich District has contributed annually to the Capital Region Housing Trust Fund. When this fund was established, the region’s mayors and councils recognized that a joint effort among municipal, provincial and federal governments was needed to address the growing problems with housing. That continues to be true and led to the Regional Housing First Program that led to contributions by all CRD municipalities.
Currently, there are 109 subsidized affordable housing units in North Saanich. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the 40 seniors units at Winward Kiwanis and talking to the residents there. North Saanich also has 24 BC Housing low income family rentals at Heron Cove, 5 rental assistance families in private market housing, 7 rental assistance seniors in private market housing and 23 units for special needs supported by BC Housing. The 10 Habitat for Humanity units bring the total to 109.
For a municipality the size of North Saanich, this is a respectable level of affordable housing.
Adding more market housing and densifying existing lots does not make housing more affordable. Instead, it encourages further speculation from investors, both individual and corporate. It also destroys more natural habitat and worsens the effects of climate change.
For these reasons, I do not support it, nor see it, as a way of making housing affordable.