Category Archives: Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group

What Makes Housing so Expensive?

Foreign investment driving up housing costs is the most recent concern in BC – specifically in Vancouver. There are calls for policies to control foreign investment and its effect on the housing market, as are in place in other countries.

The question is certainly worth more focussed inquiry. A UBC professor who has studied this point notes that other countries know exactly the nature of their foreign investment and identify it as a key factor in price increases. We do not. With no data collected on the question – how can we know its real impact? This work needs to be done in BC and appropriate policy responses should be more seriously considered.

But foreign investment is not the only factor. Other factors include high land costs in locations such as Vancouver and Victoria – with geographies bordered by ocean and mountains. Increased healthy longevity keeping seniors in their homes rather than releasing them to the market, increased divorce meaning that a family with 2 children now needs two homes instead of one, delayed marriage meaning that two people are looking for two homes instead of one. All these factors have increased in significance since our parents were house shopping.

And while municipal governments have a habit of pointing to senior governments for solutions, they play a very big role in housing costs through their share of government imposed charges. Why is it that governments view home purchasers as cash cows for everything the city might want? New parks? New art? Charge it to the developer for the privilege we give them of building in our fair city.

Really? Input costs become a part of the home price and it is home purchasers who lose. A 2009 study in 21 Canadian municipalities showed that government-imposed charges comprise 10 to 19% of total costs. In Surrey, at 19.05%, the charges made up $108,000 on the price of a $567,000 home. That’s a lot.

With so many factors going into housing prices, the solution to controlling costs is complex and all levels of government need to look at their own part in the puzzle. Perhaps we can all start looking at housing as a necessity instead of as a cash cow for government general coffers.

Author – Shannon Renault is a policy and program professional with a strong interest in housing and economic development. Email – sgrenault@gmail.com

Victoria Takes Second in Least Affordable List

There’s a lot of noise about Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market – as perhaps there should be with it coming in as the second least affordable city in the world – once more – in the 2015 Demographia report. But what perhaps hasn’t had enough discussion is that that same report shows Victoria moving into the second most unaffordable city in Canada as compared to its fourth place position just last year. And though the price differential between Vancouver and Victoria is significant, Victoria is still ranked as a severely unaffordable with the study’s methodological approach.

And who cares?

Presumably people wishing to purchase a home and likely their parents who often end up helping with the down payment.

But housing affordability for middle-income earners should be a much broader concern for a number of reasons. One reason is that communities with a mix of population lend to better social cohesion as they support a range of amenities such as schools, a variety of businesses, and social and community services. When middle-income earners are overly weighed down with housing costs, there is less discretionary income to support community businesses. Communities that are not affordable to the average family may begin to atrophy in character and vibrancy as the population ages. Further, though a multi-layered decision, business also consider the availability of people to work in their company in making initial location or expansion decisions.

So why aren’t we talking about this more in Greater Victoria? Other cities in Canada are. Other cities such as Calgary, Saskatoon, Whistler, and Toronto (to name a few) see affordable homeownership for middle-income earners as an important part of their entire housing continuum discussion and a key element in economic development. These cities have developed local solutions on how to address their concerns in order to be in a better attraction and retention position.

This region cares a lot about affordable housing and works hard at increasing housing availability for low-income earners. This should absolutely continue. However, we need to broaden our discussion and also talk about the middle and not have it be an either/or discussion.

As the backbone of the community, those things that affect middle-income earners will affect the entire community in one way or another.

Author – Shannon Renault is a policy and program professional with a strong interest in housing and economic development. Email – sgrenault@gmail.com

SNSIG Priorities – 2015

As the New Year begins in earnest, it’s worth re-visiting the 2015 based issues and topics of importance to our Peninsula Manufacturing Industry as represented by the Sidney North Saanich Industrial Group (SNSIG).

  1. Skills Trades related issues. This is a business critical activity that we must substantially address in this New Year. Some of our strategies include taking advantage of the recently announced Canada-BC Job Grant (http://www.workbc.ca/canadabcjobgrant), reaching into the local High Schools to encourage manufacturing based employment training, developing an inventory of case study based digital podcasts illustrating the challenges companies face and understanding the new employment immigration rules recently announced by the Province. An interesting idea brought forward was the establishment of a skills based database for a career retired but not “work” retired individual. Generally this idea would refer to a person in their late 50’s or 60’s who could help with the local skills shortages by being available part-time. Not all of the answers to these local skills trade shortages have to be solved by a younger generation.
  2. Municipal Services. There is an enhanced requirement to address municipal based amenities, i.e., parking, sidewalks, taxation etc. in the Sidney Industrial District. We will work pro-actively and collaboratively with local councils regarding these issues. Included in this area of activity are airport property related assessments and amenities.
  3. Affordable Workforce Housing. This is an issue that continues to require constant rigor and attention. It also requires regional solutions beyond the Peninsula based municipalities. Since the November 2015 election we’ve had discussions regarding this issue with new Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor. Both recognize the need to try and address regional Affordable Workforce Housing inventory. There is increasing attention being directed towards building the case that Victoria’s Rock Bay district could solve some of the housing related challenges for the region – the link to that initial discussion paper is located @ https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rock-bay-urban-development-downtown-business-paper-john-juricic

Jan2015 001