LETTER: Housing crisis decades in the making

Much of our discussion these days is about the housing crisis. Whether to focus on the shortage of affordable houses – the lack of supply, the high rent for basic housing – it is a widespread multi-faceted issue that is tearing at our lifestyle. It is very pronounced in many places in Canada and elsewhere. Let’s pause for a moment, and understand where it came from.

I am a senior citizen. When we bought our first house over 50 years ago the house cost about two times an annual salary. Now it would cost eight to 10 times Clearly, affordability has dramatically changed. At the time of buying our first house, federal dollars were available for mortgage assistance (down payments). Federal money had been used for low-cost housing (the end of veterans’ assistance). Federal money became harder to find but was replaced by a financing instrument called a MURB. That kept the ball rolling until the late ’80s when that was ended due to a lot of misappropriations. That seemed to be the end of direct support including incentives for low-cost rentals and financing became a market responsibility. So for the past three decades direct assistance has been very moderate.

Lifestyle changes have been taking place where a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house which had been quite adequate for a family was being replaced by something bigger with more features, bedrooms, dens, and additional bathrooms. Our population was growing and land became harder to find, and so more expensive. Fast forward to today and we see the effect of these trends over many decades – a result that will prevent a younger generation from the lifestyle older folks cherish.

What to do? Accept it took decades to get here so it will take some time to correct. Direct government investment – to make up for decades of absence is required. We need to lower our sights and requirements for living until we solve this. Governments need to look hard at how to house future generations – apartments vs. houses, etc.

I don’t like what is happening now. Speculation on further runaway costs will not solve this crisis. Only basic economics will work.

Ian Robertson

Oak Bay

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