Vancouver mayor re-announces affordable housing program for middle-class families

It appears Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is attempting to get a head start on his re-election campaign, by re-announcing an ambitious pilot program aimed at creating more affordable housing in the city.

It an announcement Wednesday, Stewart outlined a proposal similar to a motion he previously brought to council last fall.

“Making Home is a new plan allowing thousands of young middle-class and new Canadian families to buy their first home, and includes allowing up to six ground-oriented units to be built on a single lot,” said Stewart.

If approved, the plan could offer up to 10,000 new affordable homes for middle-class families to buy in single detached neighbourhoods across Vancouver.

It could also help to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to fight homelessness, build affordable rentals, repair infrastructure, expand child care services and accelerate the city’s climate emergency action plan.

“I think there are thousands of folks that want to do this,” Stewart added. “We know from our own survey work that this idea is off the charts in terms of popularity.”

The original proposal sent to city staff for review was heavily amended. The new motion includes more specifics and focuses on concerns about speculation on the increased land value.

Homeowners already on that land would need to bid in order to get into the program and the city would set the price based on how many homes it wants on the lot.

“I think this actually solves speculation,” said Thomas Davidoff, director of the University of British Columbia’s centre for urban economics and real estate. “This gets homes built that are actually homes in which people live instead of dragging out the process of redevelopment.”

Existing homeowners would give up the potential of cashing in on rising housing prices, but they would be guaranteed a new home on the same property.

“You bring down market prices by solving the problem of too many households for not enough homes. And you generate an enormous amount of revenue that can be used to address affordability by providing cash transfers, or off-site affordable housing,” Davidoff added. “As an economist, I would conclude no reasonable person could possibly oppose this proposal.”

The proposal also aims to make Vancouver a greener place to live, with the addition of hundreds of electric vehicle chargers and new bus lanes to meet the city’s target to reduce carbon emissions from vehicle use.

“This program will widen housing choice, make Vancouver a greener city, and will likely generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that can be used to help those struggling with affordability,” said Davidoff. “This is a great motion on economic, social and environmental grounds.”

The motion is set to go before council sometime in January 2022.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Regan Hasegawa