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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

Vancouver has plenty at stake in housing woes

Living here is not just expensive, but unsustainable, writes Trish Kelly.

While the major drivers of change in housing policy will be the federal and provincial governments, municipal governments have a role to play, and plenty at stake, writes Trish Kelly.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

While the major drivers of change in housing policy will be the federal and provincial governments, municipal governments have a role to play, and plenty at stake, writes Trish Kelly.

It’s a beautiful fall day in Vancouver, one that reminds me why I continue to try to live in this, the most expensive city in the country.

Through the peekaboo view on my balcony, I can see a smattering of innocuous clouds drifting in from the Georgia Strait. I’ll spend a good chunk of the day tackling the Kitsilano portion of the seawall before I come home to make a delicious dinner of fresh veggies and seafood. It will be a wonderful day, but in the background, I’ll still be holding on to the feeling that living here is not just expensive, but unsustainable.

In some ways, reading Code Red, the recent report by Generation Squeeze, a national lobby group that’s speaking up for younger Canadians who are struggling with housing unaffordability, makes me feel better. The report contains almost a dozen bold ideas about how we could make housing more affordable for young Canadians. To get to those rays of policy hope, you have to wade through some painful stats about how the current housing situation isn’t working, especially in BC, but most of all in Vancouver.

There’s the glum fact that a Vancouverite making a median income who wants to buy a $500,000 unit (we’re not talking detached home anymore) needs to save for 23 years to accumulate a down payment. There’s the exhausting number, up to 2.5 hours, that anyone resorting to commuting from Langley each day will waste in traffic.

The Code Red report proves contains plenty of strategies that could be tried; like targeted taxes that cut into the profits made when a house is flipped just days to months after it was bought.

While the major drivers of change in housing policy will be the federal and provincial governments, municipal governments have a role to play, and plenty at stake. Currently, seniors are given homeowners grants that can reduce their property taxes by up to $870 a year. This rebate exists because historically, seniors were more likely to be low income than any other age group, Now that the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s Canadians 25-34 who are more likely to be low income, it’s time younger people were getting tax breaks like this.

Municipalities with their very limited tax revenue sources and ever increasing responsibilities, would likely find expanded tax rebates a hard pill to swallow, but if the reason for granting seniors tax cuts was responding to their economic disadvantage, it’s also certain it wouldn’t have happened without public support.

That’s where we come in. We need to show significant public support for tax and policy reform so all levels of government feel compelled to make change.

Trish Kelly lives and writes in East Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc.

A call to action:

What do you think? Read more at gensqueeze.ca and let us know what you think by emailing Vancouver@metronews.ca, commenting on this article on our Facebook page, facebook.com/vancouvermetro, or tweet us with the hashtag: #CodeRed. You can also text JOIN to 604-337-0945 to get involved with the Code Red campaign.

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