The future of housing discussed at Union of BC Municipalities convention

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WHISTLER: The 119th Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention was held at the Whistler Conference Centre (WCC) and that ran from September 12–16. Delegates from 189 local governments and eight First Nations from around the province attended the week-long conventionwhich included nearly 50 workshops, clinics, forums and plenary sessions.

A session on continuing crisis in housing affordability was held to explore critical housing issues facing communities and point towards effective solutions.

Local government leaders from across the province shared experiences in addressing housing shortages. Mayor Mike Hurley of the City of Burnaby told delegates that supply alone will not solve everything and that it is “the wrong idea that everything wrong with housing is the fault of local governments.”

Hurley stated that local governments cannot control the housing market, but they can control zoning, OCPs, and how development approvals are granted to meet local demand – which local governments understand – to build strong communities. Hurley said supply must be added to increase affordability, but dismissed the idea that supply alone would solve the problem. “If supply alone is the answer, Metrotown would have the cheapest supply in Canada,” he said.

Councillor Craig Hodge of the City of Coquitlam built upon Mayor Hurley’s comments by providing delegates with an overview of how Coquitlam has actively chosen to become a leader in planning and development with an open and consultative planning process. Hodge reaffirmed the principle that “growth should pay for growth,” in order to pay for the infrastructure necessary to support greater density.

Summerland’s Mayor Toni Boot and Mayor Ed Mayne from the City of Parksville both touched on how housing shortages in their communities have impacted their economies, and sparked reviews of their respective development and permitting processes. Boot proposed updating co-op legislation to make it easier for such housing options to become established.

After the local government representatives offered the case studies of their experiences, delegates heard from panels including representatives from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Greater Victoria Housing Society, as well as the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. 

Marc Lee, Senior Economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told delegates that success in creating greater affordability “will require lots of new rental housing, and in particular non-market housing.”