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We need to build more homes - now

Puneet Sandhar: On housing, the problem may be complicated – but there’s no solution that doesn’t involve building a lot more.
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While political speeches can be effective at muddying the water, the numbers always make it clear. That’s the case with the budget introduced by Carole James last week.

There was all the usual talk about “making life more affordable,” “supporting first-time buyers,” and “taking action on the housing crisis.” Statements we’d all agree with, but the numbers tell a different story.

In 2019, over 40,000 people moved to Metro Vancouver, putting more pressure on cities like Vancouver and Surrey to ensure growing housing and infrastructure needs are dealt with proactively.

However, Budget 2020 indicates a 22% drop in new housing starts to 35,000, which will continue to further drop over the next two years to 30,000.

The math is simple: 40,000 people moving to Metro Vancouver and the 30,000 moving to the rest of BC will only have access to 35,000 new units. And that’s assuming these units are built on time and not caught in long permitting processes. By the time those 35,000 units are built, there will already be a shortage in supply by tens of thousands.

So, what’s the response from our governments? You tell me.

There’s no plan to reform building codes, speed up development processes, or relax punitive taxes driving up prices and slowing down construction.

To actually make good on those statements on housing, we’re going to need bold action.

Instead of empty statements, we need all levels of governments to come together and take real action.

For starters, focus on building more rapid transit lines throughout Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland while densifying the surrounding areas.

Densification would make rapid transit feasible, and the development cost charges would give more money to the government to put back into infrastructure. Above all, new units would give people a chance to enter the market – or at least find a home to rent closer to their work places.

The solutions are clear. The problem is a lack of vision and courage to take them on and actually make a difference.

The government’s policies to slow demand simply haven’t worked. The old lines on housing aren’t going to cut it. We need action. It has to be bold and has to happen now.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C and practices in the area of Real Estate Law and Land Development. She has and continues to serve on boards for numerous organizations including the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society, City of Surrey Board of Variance. She was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her volunteerism and work in the community.