November 18, 2015

Beyond the Headlines: Solving Canada's Housing Crisis

The recent increase of Vancouver housing prices affects everyone, no matter if you’re 5, 25 or 105. On November 2, 2015, Housing in the City showcased 7 housing experts who addressed possible solutions and generated discussion around the current housing issue in Vancouver. This public event was presented in partnership with the Tyee Solutions Society as part of a year-long project called The Housing Fix, which aims to promote a national non-partisan dialogue and real policy changes on affordable housing through open source journalism and invited-expert workshops in Vancouver and Ottawa.  

The evening’s particular focus was on individuals who were at or below household median income. The event was unique in providing a variety of perspectives including: housing issues in Victoria, Whistler, First Nations communities, public spaces and utilizing alternative resources for housing.

The majority of solutions generated across the evening were taken from cities who all experienced an inflation in housing prices in the past. For instance UBC Geography professor David Ley used London, England to demonstrate how transfer taxes were used to help “cool-down” the hot market, that was generated by foreign investment. 

Similarly, Whistler Housing Authority General Manager Marla Zucht spoke on how Whistler has been able to provide 82% of employees with accommodation. This was accomplished through strict policies established in the early 1990s. These policies included inclusionary zoning, long term affordability and ensuring employees of Whistler had housing. Moving forward, Zucht believes that although Whistler is a resort-city, that the same practices can be applied to Greater Vancouver.

Other speakers focused on solutions that dealt with the actual units of the housing themselves. Metro Vancouver planner Tom Lancaster brought about the importance of innovative planning of long term housing solutions to sustain future generations. The idea Lancaster proposed, is as Vancouver’s population grows, movable walls can be rearranged to provide more housing units for families within the same amount of space. Robert Brown, president of Catalyst Community Developments Society brought up the topic of utilizing resources within the community that haven’t been used for housing yet. This includes unlocking untouched resources for housing: utilizing churches and non-profits to generate more available housing.

The reality of the situation addressed by all 7 speakers, is that the housing issue can’t be fixed by itself. Government intervention is needed to implement strict policies that generate the inflation of housing prices as well, consider alternative solutions to solve the housing issue.


Nicole Strutt is a volunteer with the Communications team at SFU Public Square. She is currently studying Communications at Simon Fraser University.