Metro Vancouver has long been one of the most popular regions for prospective home-buyers, so much so that the number of buyers has outpaced the number of houses actually available.
The lack of housing has forced the provincial government to introduce policies like a foreign buyer’s tax, which many municipalities across the region have embraced.
However, a new survey from the Fraser Institute suggests that in order to increase housing availability, those municipalities should be looking inward rather than outward.
Senior Research Director Kenneth Green spoke with Simi Sara about the survey, which examines the large disparity in building costs between cities.
The survey ranked cities based on their application wait times, fees and general cost of building, with the City of Vancouver unsurprisingly coming out on top.
It found that the average cost of a building per-unit in Vancouver is $78,000, compared to a city like Surrey at $52,000.
This becomes an issue, Green says, when the province promises more affordable housing in cities that are also the most expensive.
“The very areas where they’re often singing that song the loudest are the ones that have the longest permit wait times, the longest rezoning wait times, and the highest administrative fees.”
The survey also found that geography didn’t matter – building in a certain city could cost tens of thousands more than its neighbour.
Green used the example of Pitt Meadows, which only has $4,000 in total costs on average, as an illustration.
“You have to ask yourself, ‘is it really that much harder to grant a building permit in the City of Vancouver than it is in Pitt Meadows?’”
But the kind of housing Green says Metro Vancouver needs is often controversial – in February a proposed affordable housing project in Kerrisdale received vocal disapproval from a local community group.
Green says groups like those that resist affordable housing aren’t seeing the bigger picture.
“If you want your children to be able to buy a starter home somewhere near you… that’s not going to happen in a no-growth city.”
He says in order to solve housing supply issues, municipalities have to adopt the policies of their more successful neighbours.
More than anything, Green says offering more housing starts with incentivizing the suppliers.
“They have to be more attractive than places like Burnaby, Pitt Meadows, and Port Moody, not significantly less attractive.”