Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Zone for Affordable Housing

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Instead of doing the usual “roundup of the year” the Tyee has been publishing useful articles. The common theme is making BC a better place. That in itself is an interesting idea. Our government appears to think that BC is already “the best place on earth” which kind of lets them off the hook from actually tackling any of its problems. (And, by the way, the banner ad when I clicked on this article was a very pointed political message from the teachers union. “If our schools were convention centres they might get some attention”)

This idea comes from a councillor in Whistler, where the unaffordability of housing is no longer just affecting the service workers. It has become so that no-one who relies on employment for their income can afford to live in Whistler anymore. Land costs have risen, but so have construction costs. Basically the housing market has failed – and now only provides for the super rich.

While he acknowledges that public housing provision does have a role, if ordinary people are to be able to get into the market there must be a new zoning for affordable housing.

“We learned the hard way that the very best way to solve this problem was to integrate the community.”

Housing market failure

Unlike Vancouver and other communities where the housing debate had been triggered by rampant homelessness, Whistler is more clearly focused on developing housing for working families.

“I don’t want to give the impression that social housing isn’t important. It’s very important. But I think all the recent attention on social housing may have clouded the issue that we’re facing right now,” Wake said.

Wake urged rural and suburban communities to zone land for affordable housing as soon as possible, and set it aside for later use. “This is something we didn’t do in Whistler.”

“Start downtown and work out. Create complete neighbourhoods,” Wake suggested. “We really want to marry the affordable housing opportunities with smart growth principles. We’re not talking about building inexpensive housing out on the periphery. We’ve got to build it in walk-able, livable neighbourhoods,” Wake said.

And when you put it that way it sounds obvious, and is clearly something that all communities in the lower mainland need to get on with pretty quickly. For if we really are immune from the collapse of the market south of the border, and the credit crunch due to asset backed paper is not our problem, it will not be long before we too are in the same situation as Whistler. In fact, if you think about it, we already are.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 3, 2008 at 9:32 am

Posted in land use, Urban Planning

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