Unlocking Supply: Housing Affordability and the Missing Middle

In the Greater Vancouver Economic Scorecard 2016 (Scorecard 2016), our region’s alarmingly low ranking in housing affordability is of great concern for our future economic prosperity. If we are to encourage further economic growth without compromising livability for current residents, it is imperative we unlock our region’s housing supply and ensure we create the right type of housing that suits the long-term needs of our region and its residents.

Our region’s poor housing affordability has plenty of causes — limited availability of land, an attractive market for foreign investment, population growth, and constrained supply. While there is no silver bullet to address all these causes at once, concerted efforts to address these issues individually must be made. Over the past year, there has been a significant focus on managing the demand for housing through the provincial foreign buyer’s tax. However, only recently have the various levels of government started to talk about increasing the supply of housing.

This report provides seven recommendations for municipalities across our region that will alleviate pressures on the housing market by adding supply and providing varied housing forms and tenures. By introducing a greater variety of housing forms and tenures throughout the region, we can make housing more affordable through more compact and denser neighbourhoods while providing people with alternative options for ownership or renting — which are currently out of reach for many individuals and families.

While all levels of government are currently concerned about housing, our local governments are on the front lines of the housing crisis. Municipal planning, zoning, and development.

processes have a direct impact on the speed in which housing supply can be added to the region. Local governments must evaluate and measure these processes in a consistent and empirical way to ensure that they are prioritizing and encouraging diversity in housing form and tenure while increasing supply. It is important to note that some of these recommendations are already being implemented in some local jurisdictions. However, there is a significant amount of variation within Greater Vancouver’s municipalities, and these policies are key to properly addressing the housing crisis across our region.

There are several ways in which municipalities can unlock supply while providing more diverse housing options. The recommendations highlighted in this report include:

  • Focusing on developing “The Missing Middle”
  • Consistent and empirical data collection on the development processes across the region
  • Pre-zoning for transit-oriented development
  • Ending negotiated community amenity contributions
  • Using density bonus zoning wherever possible and appropriate
  • Using concurrent processes
  • Exploring and implementing a regional accreditation regime