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Vancouver mayor ‘totally committed’ to finding housing solutions for young people

Code Red: Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson meets with Generation Squeeze to discuss how housing crunch affects young people Monday

Mayor Gregor Robertson is meeting with representatives of Generation Squeeze to discuss the coalition's Code Red initiative on housing affordability for young people in the city.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro File

Mayor Gregor Robertson is meeting with representatives of Generation Squeeze to discuss the coalition's Code Red initiative on housing affordability for young people in the city.

Young people affected by Vancouver’s housing crunch will get some face-to-face time with Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Robertson will meet Monday with Generation Squeeze founder Paul Kershaw and six young adults Monday to discuss the coalition’s Code Red campaign highlighting how the affordability crisis is driving generational inequality in Vancouver and beyond.

“The purpose is really to hear directly from young people struggling in the housing crisis with affordability and piecing together what else the city can do to help,” Robertson told Metro ahead of the talks. “We’re totally committed to dealing with affordable housing, and the impacts are most dramatic on young people that are trying to find a place to live here.”

Robertson believes the city’s impending empty homes tax and regulation of Airbnb and other short-term rentals will soon free up some housing options for young people, but he knows more needs to be done.

The city is also aggressively pursuing building more rental housing on public land, advocating for more action from the provincial and federal governments and is on the hunt for pro-active “game changer ideas that get us out of the crisis,” Robertson said.

Whether or not those ideas include Code Red recommendations remains to be seen.

The advocacy group’s housing report, which is the subject of an ongoing weekly series in Metro, makes a number of recommendations that include taxing home wealth, imposing taxes on house flipping, rezoning single-detached home neighbourhoods and providing subsidies for expenses like child care and transit to ease the financial burden on strained young families.

Paul Kershaw, a University of British Columbia professor at the School of Population and Health and founder of Generation Squeeze, a coalition of young Canadians tackling generational inequality.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Paul Kershaw, a University of British Columbia professor at the School of Population and Health and founder of Generation Squeeze, a coalition of young Canadians tackling generational inequality.

Kershaw told Metro the talks in Vancouver will coincide with other Generation Squeeze roundtables with the mayors of Edmonton and Toronto on Monday.

“One [intention] is to debunk the idea that housing is only unaffordable in a few neighbourhoods in Vancouver proper and to show this is a massive regional crisis, it’s a problem in B.C. and it’s a challenge coast-to-coast across Canada,” said Kershaw, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population Health. “No matter where you go, housing prices are more than double what they were a generation ago. It’s just that Vancouver is the epicenter of the greatest amount of insanity in terms of the housing squeeze.”

He said the city has already adopted Code Red’s principle premise, which is that the housing market should prioritize providing homes to people that need them over investments and profit.

For Robertson, Vancouver’s current predicament represents a cruel reversal of fortunes for the city.

“I remember really clearly when it was the other way around and people talked about brain drain because of the economy. Lots of young people left Vancouver because there weren’t enough jobs,” he said. “Now we’ve got the reverse problem of plenty of jobs but not enough affordable housing for young people. In less than a decade it’s become very difficult for young people to own a home and rental is now in extremely short supply. It would be nice to find a balance there.”

Vancouver's mayor says he believes the city’s impending empty homes tax and regulation of Airbnb and other short-term rentals will free up housing options for young people.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Vancouver's mayor says he believes the city’s impending empty homes tax and regulation of Airbnb and other short-term rentals will free up housing options for young people.

The city is currently in the midst of developing a revising housing plan, which Robertson hopes will help strike that balance.

The mayor said young people have been making their voices heard in the midst of the crisis.

“The city is proud to support the Code Red campaign in recognizing how crucial it is for all levels of government to focus more on affordable housing for young people,” he said. “It’s a national campaign. I’m working with mayors across Canada to put attention on the need for affordable housing for the next generation in our cities.”

To commemorate the Code Red talks, Vancouver city hall will also be lit up red Monday night.

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