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Housing Matters podcast: Fixes for Metro Vancouver’s rental shortage


A suite for rent sign in Vancouver, B.C.


Carmine Marinelli / CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY

The latest episode of the Housing Matters podcast is all about finding ways to build more rental accommodation in Metro Vancouver where land costs are sky high and vacancy rates near zero.

Subscribe to Housing Matters on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify.


Here are five things we learned from this week’s podcast:

Tom Davidoff, a UBC professor at the Sauder School of Business, says special buildings with below market rents for the lucky few who win a lottery to get in will not be enough. “Another approach is to say everybody who is eligible for that lottery is going to get an equal prize. They’re going to get a cheque and instead of this being a government-built building, this is gonna be a market-built building where you can take your cheques and put them.

Vancouver Councillor Jean Swanson campaigned in the recent city election, and says she continues to favour, a so-called mansion tax on properties valued at more than $5 million. She laments how a new employer tax to help pay to house the homeless failed in Seattle after a vigorous campaign by anti-tax lobbyists. “It really bugs me that the richest man in the world (Amazon’s) Jeff Bezos is refusing to pay a piddly little tax that would help end homelessness. I think it’s really gross.”

Swanson also wants to see property taxes that better reflect land values. “Why don’t we have a progressive property tax just like we have progressive income tax?”

Hani Lammam of Cressey Development Group says the City of Seattle’s answer to a housing shortage was to offer tax incentives to developers who built new rental at below market rates. “They got a flood of new rental housing builds . . . That is a market reaction, and a market solution, to a problem.”

Lammam says everything brought in by government so far in B.C. and Vancouver has been about new taxes. “All the measures to date have done nothing to encourage a land owner to take the risk, because these are very risky projects that take many years . . . We have a current rental project under construction right now that we have been five years in approval on.”


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