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Polled Tyee readers offer heaps of fixes for Vancouver's housing woes

This week, The Tyee asked readers how they would solve Vancouver's affordable housing problem.

In a recent Tyee story, I wrote about 60 West Cordova, a condo development on the edge of the Downtown Eastside that was marketed as "affordable homeownership" for first-time buyers. In the two years since the building opened, assessed values and resale prices have skyrocketed, leaving some to suggest the "affordable" moniker no longer applies.

More recently, the New Yorker magazine deemed Vancouver "the most expensive housing market in North America."

None of the solutions offered by the Tyee poll received a majority of votes. The most popular option was "limit flipping and speculation" -- something 60 West Cordova attempted to do. It received 43 per cent of the votes cast by Thursday afternoon.

"Increase supply," "move elsewhere," and "Nothing. Let the market rule," received 17, seven and four per cent, respectively.

Another top option was "other," where 30 per cent of respondents offered their own solutions to the problem. Readers varied in their proposed solutions. Many focused on limiting foreign ownership:

"Restrict housing purchases to people who are Canadian citizens who are actually domiciled here. Forbid foreign ownership completely. This one step would immediately bring down the price of housing in the country."

"Regulate foreign (or more palatably, 'non-citizen') ownership of property as they do in Australia, Hong Kong, Switzerland etc. Or in a positive spin, provide subsidies to allow residents and citizens to more easily afford real estate in Vancouver."

Others suggested creative ways to increase supply:

"Open up the 'lands beyond the ferry terminals' by taking back the ferries, lowering fares and making commutes possible. If people can live on the Sunshine Coast, just 11 nautical miles from west Vancouver, you can add thousands of ocean-view, affordable housing to Vancouver!"

"Densify but in more varied ways than high rises: allow coach houses on single family lots with older homes… coach houses that can be sold separately, thereby reducing the costs of the original house. (And only allow this if the original house is renovated, not torn down. Find funding for more co-op type not for profit housing. Allow front yards of homes to be developed where feasible: duplex extension added to the home, for example."

Many others pushed for non-market solutions that would go beyond prohibitions on "flipping" or foreign ownership:

"In Vancouver, three per cent of the housing is government-owned non-market housing. That compares to six per cent in New York, 30 per cent in Stockholm, and 83 per cent in Singapore. The market is not in the business of supplying affordable housing, it is in the business of maximizing profits. You can increase the supply of unaffordable brand new housing all you like; there will never be enough to meet the demand. The city needs to stop blaming the other levels of government for bailing out of non-market housing and get on with the job. Only the government (e.g. Whistler) can provide non-market housing that many people can afford. Set some targets that provide housing for the median family income in Vancouver, which is $68,000 per year. Market solutions haven't and won't work."

"A 100 per cent capital gains tax on any dwelling sold before five years should stop the piggies. Also limit non-resident ownership and increase number of non-profit dwellings, i.e. co-ops."

"Build a housing authority as per COPE's housing report and prioritize diversifying housing rather than luxury condo development."

Some readers also critiqued the structure of the poll, arguing that complex problems require complex solutions:

"Limit flipping -- and increase supply."

"Pretty disappointing poll, since your options seem to be 'put limited regulation on the market,' 'let the market rule,' 'let the market rule,' and finally (where you say what you mean) 'let the market rule.'"

"Why do we only get to choose one option? The ideas are not all in contradiction with the rest!"

The Tyee Poll is not a scientific poll, but rather is intended to simply get the pulse of Tyee readers and the wider community. This week's poll will remain open through the end of the day on Sunday.

Ian Holliday is completing a practicum at The Tyee and is the website's resident poll analyst.

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