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LETTER: Families locked out of affordable housing

Re: Peninsula chamber official calls for better housing options (Nov. 25).

In 2014, when many were calling for an affordable housing policy in North Saanich that would ensure the three proposed “affordable” higher density developments would actually be affordable, the then-president of the chamber argued against an affordable housing policy, saying the time taken to pass it would slow down the creation of affordable housing.

Not surprisingly, without it, we got no housing that could be classified affordable from those projects. In fact, Eaglehurst’s units, built on farmland and initially “sold” to council by the developer’s agent at $425,000, actually entered the market between $800,000 and $1,200,000. If the chamber had put their weight behind an affordable housing policy then, perhaps we’d have nearly 200 more affordable units in North Saanich now. Does Mr. Smith, who also urges speed and no bureaucracy, believe things would be any different this time around?

A recent Douglas Todd article in the Vancouver Sun quotes UBC urban planner Patrick Condon as warning: “it’s not possible to build one’s way out of an affordability crisis, in which prices are punishingly disconnected from wages…Up-zoning, on its own, mostly just spikes land values and brings windfall profits to landowners.” He believes politicians should only upzone on condition developers provide affordable housing for people with average incomes.

The article cites other measures likely to achieve affordability, including tightened mortgage rules as in New Zealand, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s as-yet-unfulfilled promise to restrict or ban housing purchases by “non-resident, non-Canadians.” In addition, investors and speculators are “superheating the housing industry… people who already own more than one dwelling have become the largest buying cohort in Ontario… speculation on housing as a commodity, rather than as shelter, has led to mass hoarding … [with] one-tenth of [Canada’s] supply not even being used.”

It seems these are better measures to explore if affordability really is the goal.

Bernadette Greene

North Saanich