Federal plans should focus on housing density at transit hubs: Greater Vancouver Board of Trade

Homes are pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, Apr 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.

It’s become a question that’s become almost impossible to answer in Metro Vancouver: how do we solve housing affordability?

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) is the latest group taking a crack at figuring out solutions.

The GVBOT released a report Thursday outlining four measures the organization would like to see federal parties adopt heading into the fall election.

The key recommendation is “coordinating current federal housing and transit investments” while considering incentives to encourage more housing near rapid transit.

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“There has been much focus on what the province or the municipalities can do. But there hasn’t been much attention towards what the federal government can do,” Greater Vancouver Board of Trade vice-chair Evi Mustel said.

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“We see even now that there are stations that are quite underdeveloped and underutilized for housing.”

The federal government has dedicated resources to a national housing strategy and struck an expert panel on the future of housing.

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The experts gathered by GVBOT to put together the report suggest the federal government can use “levers” to require municipalities and the province to approve density on transit corridors in order to receive federal money.

“While provincial and municipal governments are responsible for many aspects affecting the housing market, the federal government controls several key levers including monetary policy, mortgage financing rules, loan insurance, and tax policy,” the report reads.

The board is encouraging all federal parties to look at the ideas in the report, and hopes it will create a continued conversation about the affordability issue.

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The report’s recommendations also include making changes to the Income Tax Act to support new rental construction, tax credits to encouraging new rental units within existing zoning, and unlocking federal lands to support regional housing investments.

“The lack of available and affordable housing is a persistent challenge facing the Greater Vancouver region,” Mustel said. “It affects the quality of life of residents and impacts many local businesses, who are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain skilled workers due to the high costs of housing.

“In recent years, much of the public debate on housing affordability in the Lower Mainland has focused on the actions of local and provincial governments. While the federal government’s National Housing Strategy makes meaningful strides, the Board of Trade believes the federal government can unlock more housing — especially rental housing — by using a broader set of tools within their toolkit.”

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