Towards a More Equitable Housing System: Is Vancouver a City for Renters?

2021, The Future We Want The Change We Need, Cities, Equity + Justice

Beginning in the early 1970s the percentage of Vancouver households living in rental units has been greater than 50%. Nevertheless, renters consistently face difficulties in finding housing that is adequate, stable and secure, with, in more recent years, rental affordability becoming a particularly challenging and detrimental issue for many households. While some in the city may strive for home ownership, data tells us that this possibility has become increasingly out of reach, even for those with moderate incomes.

Given the reality that a majority of Vancouverites will most likely continue to live in rental housing, what does this mean for the next generation, for seniors and families, for low-income, racialized and marginalized households, and for the many others who do not see a secure housing future in Vancouver?

How must the City of Vancouver think differently about housing and the housing market to better meet the needs of its residents, ensuring priority for those with the greatest need?

What is required of a new city-wide plan to ensure the urgent and transformative change necessary to establish an equitable housing system?

We discussed these questions at the second event of The Future We Want: The Change We Need series.

Thu, 21 Jan 2021

Onine Event

The Future We Want: The Change We Need

The future we want will not be achieved by applying the solutions of yesterday to the challenges facing our city and communities today. In collaboration with Simon Fraser University, the City of Vancouver presented The Future We Want: The Change We Need — a free, online, interactive dialogue series that brings together new and varied perspectives and ideas to shape the transformative social, economic and physical changes we need.    

This series invited knowledge keepers, thought leaders, changemakers and community members to discuss, deliberate and share their thoughts on the future of the City of Vancouver.  These dialogues contributed to the Planning Vancouver Together planning process, informed by policy analysis, scenario development and public engagement, to create a new, long-term strategic citywide plan looking to 2050 and beyond. 

Each of the six conversations in this series addressed the biggest challenges standing in the way of achieving our goals; and new ideas – big and small – to help unlock our collective potential as a truly just, resilient, sustainable, affordable and culturally vibrant Vancouver.


Evan Siddall
President and CEO, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Evan is President and CEO of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a role he has held since 2014. Evan leads a team of housing experts who share a single goal: that “By 2030, everyone in Canada will have a home that they can afford and that meets their needs.” As CEO, Evan is especially passionate about growing leaders, and the merits of both a diverse workforce and the mental health of his colleagues.

Councillor, Squamish Nation

Khelsilem is Squamish and Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw raised in North Vancouver, British Columbia. As the Squamish Nation Councillor, his lifelong work has been focused on governance, Indigenous languages, and dreams of progressive social change. He has served on various committees, including: Governance, Finance & Audit, Human Resources, and Housing Authority Development. He has strived to create good governance practices that enhance transparency, accountability, and ethical governing standards to benefit the Nation’s members.

Barbara Steenbergen
Member of the Executive Committee, International Union of Tenants (IUT)

Barbara Steenbergen has been committed to tenant protection for more than 19 years, starting in 2001 as head of the presidential office of the German Tenants' Union in Berlin and as political coordinator for energy policy and international affairs. Since 2013 she has been a member of the Executive Board of the International Union of Tenants. She is responsible for the political relations and representation of the interests of the European tenant associations towards the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the EU Council. She is a German citizen and holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Bonn, Germany and a bachelor in public administration.

Leilani Farha
Global Director, THE SHIFT

Leilani Farha is the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Global Director of The Shift. She has helped develop global human rights standards on the right to housing, including through her topical reports on homelessness, the financialization of housing, informal settlements, rights-based housing strategies, and the first UN Guidelines for the implementation of the right to housing. She is the central character in the documentary PUSH regarding the financialization of housing, screening around the world.

William Azaroff
CEO, Brightside Community Homes Foundation

William is the CEO of Brightside Community Homes Foundation, an organization dedicated to making housing accessible for those who struggle to meet the demands of market housing in Vancouver. He was a long-time executive at Vancity, performing many senior leadership roles in his 14 years at the credit union. William is on the board of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and is former chair of Modo, a car-sharing co-operative and the Vancity Community Foundation.

Andy Yan
Director, The City Program at Simon Fraser University

Andy Yan is the director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University. Born and raised in Vancouver, Andy Yan has extensively worked in the non-profit and private urban planning sectors with projects in the metropolitan regions of Vancouver, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles and New Orleans. Andy is a registered professional planner with the Canadian Institute of Planners. He is also an adjunct professor in Urban Studies at SFU as well as an adjunct professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at the University of British Columbia.


Meg Holden
Professor and Director, SFU Urban Studies

Meg Holden is professor and director of the urban studies program and professor in the department of geography at SFU. Meg is an urban environmental pragmatist. Her engaged research program examines urban policy, planning and social aspects of sustainable development intentions and transitions in cities and communities, with foci in value-based measurement and indicators, community well-being and livability, neighbourhood housing, planning and experience, and local democracy and justice.

Kerry Gold
Journalist and Housing Columnist, Globe & Mail

Kerry Gold is a Vancouver-born journalist who's written a weekly housing column for the Globe and Mail for the last 13 years. She also writes investigative pieces for the Walrus, and has written for many other publications, including MSN, Yahoo, McLean's, MoneySense, BC Business, the Toronto Star, L.A. Weekly and Variety. She spent 11 years at the Vancouver Sun as a music critic and reporter. She also writes books on business, music and food.


Event Recording

In the News

Vancouver explores ways to increase rental housing — Kerry Gold, The Globe & Mail (January 13, 2021)

Moving Towards a More Equitable Housing System reimagines the rights and lives of renters — Emma Jean, The Peak (February 6, 2021)


The Future We Want: The Change We Need Events