News / Vancouver

New B.C. Liberal leader questions whether empty homes are 'a problem that needs to be fixed'

In a sit-down interview with Metro's newsroom, Andrew Wilkinson talks housing—and why he favours incentives to build more housing rather than demand-side restrictions

A single-detached house in the Dunbar neighbourhood.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

A single-detached house in the Dunbar neighbourhood.

Andrew Wilkinson’s riding, Vancouver-Quilchena, encompasses parts of Dunbar, Kerrisdale, Southlands and Arbutus Ridge. The median income there is $104,450, compared to $65,423 for Vancouver as a whole, and like other Westside neighbourhoods, home prices in Wilkinson’s riding have soared into the multi-millions while population has dropped.

That pattern is “not a good thing for our society,” he told Metro.

“The population density is declining quite quickly as the children graduate and move on and move to other locations in their lives, and they’re not being replaced because the houses are too expensive for young people to move into."

“In the city block that I live on, when we moved there in 1999, the population was about 20, it went up to 40 and now it’s down below 20, and there’s no sign of it going back up.”

Like his B.C. Liberal colleagues Mike de Jong and Rich Coleman, Wilkinson thinks the answer is more housing supply across Metro Vancouver. To spur the construction of more rental buildings, he wants to see a return to a tax incentive program similar to the federal incentives that were in place in the 1970s.

Wilkinson’s riding is bordered to the north by Vancouver-Point Grey, represented by NDP MLA David Eby. Eby has shown a keen interest in the effect of foreign investment in residential real estate in his riding and supports measures such as a tax on homeowners who don’t live in B.C. and don’t make their income here. The B.C. Green Party is calling on the NDP government for a foreign-buyer ban but the Ministry of Finance has said it does not plan to enact one.

 B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks to Metro Vancouver's newsroom on Feb. 8, 2018.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks to Metro Vancouver's newsroom on Feb. 8, 2018.

Wilkinson says he is sceptical of demand-side interventions.
Of Vancouver’s new empty homes tax, Wilkinson said it remains to be seen whether the effort to collect the tax will be worth it.

“In places like Kelowna or Victoria, if someone has a secondary home there and they are planning to retire there and they use that secondary home for six weeks of the year, are they a problem that needs to be fixed or are they a senior who’s about to become part of the community?” he asked.

“These raw classifications of types of people as good or bad in the housing market are often not a very good way to figure things out.”

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