Discover more from Vancouver Needs More Housing
The MacPhail Report
In September 2019, the BC and federal governments set up an Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability in BC, headed by Joy MacPhail. The panel issued their final report ("Opening Doors") in June 2021.
For anyone concerned about housing affordability in Vancouver and BC, I'd recommend reading the whole thing. Some key points:
It takes a long time to build more housing in response to high rents ("supply responsiveness"), because of delays in getting approval from local governments. That's the root cause. The report recommends setting time limits.
Incentives for local governments are backwards. Any major project requires a rezoning, and they negotiate to get 70-80% of the increase in land value. This means that local governments benefit from keeping land prices high. The report recommends finding some other way to finance local governments.
The report also recommends much greater federal funding for non-profits to buy and preserve existing rental units, which are older and therefore more affordable, to keep them from being renovated or replaced with more expensive units.
A dominant theme throughout the Panel’s consultations and analysis was the slow and unpredictable pace at which new housing — both for-profit and non-profit — receives regulatory approval from government authorities. Speeding up or streamlining processes, such as rezoning and development applications, was identified as critical to enabling a more responsive housing supply.
We recommend a stronger role for housing needs estimates and citywide official plans, which guide how entire communities are expected to grow. We also recommend reduced reliance on site-by-site public hearings and council approvals that delay homebuilding and amplify the voices of groups opposing new housing at the expense of citywide objectives and affordability.
[Community Amenity Charges] are negotiated in exchange for rezoning property to accommodate more homes. As a result, local governments that proactively increase zoned capacity or update zoning codes to better reflect anticipated growth and community priorities (as outlined in regional growth strategies and official community plans) lose that revenue opportunity. Indeed, local governments can generate CAC revenue by keeping zoning below levels that make redevelopment possible, and selling additional “air rights” through the zoning powers they have been delegated. Consequently, the additional costs, time, and uncertainty associated with the rezoning process—including their negative impacts on housing supply—persist.
The impact of housing shortages is like a game of musical chairs in which players get priority access to chairs (homes) based on how much money or credit they have. Player 1 goes first and may choose from among all the chairs, followed by player 2, player 3, and so on. In each round, the player with the least amount of money is left without a chair and must exit the game.