LETTER: Densification won’t make Oak Bay’s housing more affordable

Oak Bay housing prices have always been less affordable than most other communities in Canada. This is consistent with other top-ranked communities that are desirable places to live. Most of Oak Bay’s prospective candidates in the Oct. 15 civic election believe, despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that densifying Oak Bay’s single-family neighbourhoods with more supply is going to make our housing more affordable.

These want-to-be councillors, along with the provincial government, have somehow missed the body of evidence that relates to housing price increases. This evidence tells us that many other desirable communities, for example Vancouver and Victoria, have substantially increased their housing supply every year, in all forms, but this has not prevented their housing prices from continuing to skyrocket.

Leave out the ethical argument and the right or wrong of considering a basement suite or limited space garden shed or garage, as housing options. The fly in the ointment, obviously not apparent to most prospective council members, is that international and national speculation in land and housing is the primary cause that has made housing unaffordable. There is also plenty of reliable evidence to show this the also the case with rents.

The federal government early this year recognized that investment in housing for profit (speculation) has prevented many Canadians from owning a home in their own country. It promised to provide a fix, but hasn’t. The UBCM, the union that represents 161 municipalities, recently published a report that said B.C.’s housing supply is adequate. Why is it that most of the Oak Bay prospective councillors believe repeating the same failed solution of more supply will solve or impact the housing crisis.

Increasing the population in Oak Bay by adding many more renters is not the problem, packing them into crammed accommodation is. This combined with the inability to tax the rental income. This will badly affect the district’s annual budgets. Municipal service costs, for the most part, are tied to the size of the population. Without new revenue, where will the funding come from to pay for the increase in the significant service costs, as well as the revenue to increase the infrastructure capacity? Our 100-year-old infrastructure is struggling to keep up now.

A new study published by the Fraser Institute found that the average Canadian family paid more in 2021 on taxes than on housing, food and clothing combined. Last year, the average family spent 43 per cent of its income on taxes and 36 per cent on basic necessities. However, unprecedented property tax increases have never been a problem for recent Oak Bay councils.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay

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