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 – firstname.lastname@example.org