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Metro Vancouver's Housing Crisis: A Huge Opportunity?

Vancouver skyline

Skyrocketing real estate prices are forcing many Vancouverites to consider leaving or abandoning dreams of one day owning here. Could there be another option? Photo by David P. Ball

One in three Vancouverites can't afford what they pay for housing, if you believe the latest National Housing Survey. Throughout the greater Vancouver metro region, citizens call unaffordable housing a crisis in their communities. Yet housing remains low on both federal and provincial priority lists, and municipalities can only do so much.

A growing number of British Columbians have stopped waiting for governments to help them find adequate and affordable shelter -- let alone rescue their dreams of homeownership.

Fed up with the usual complaint that this city is too expensive for many to live in, a growing movement is seeking, inventing or adapting innovative solutions that others might consider just a little mad: everything from buying and living communally, to occupying smaller private units with more shared amenities, to embracing more flexible suite layouts that can enlarge or contract as people move through life in one place. In many cases that means re-thinking the idea of one nuclear family per home, one home per lot, and a single-family mortgage.

It's a trend that's already taken root in other major cities across Canada, where in the absence of a revival in federal and provincial spending on housing as a social objective, creative citizens are testing out new ways of getting themselves and others like them into homes they own, while also improving the quality of life of their communities.

Follow reporter David P. Ball as he explores the many ways that necessity is fostering inventive new cures for the intractable Vancouver housing "crisis" in this ongoing series.

This series was produced by Tyee Solutions Society. It was made possible through the support of Vancity Credit Union. Support for this project does not necessarily imply Vancity's endorsement of the findings or content of this report. TSS funders neither influence nor endorse the particular content of TSS reporting. Other publications wishing to publish this story or other TSS produced articles, please see this website for contacts and information.

In This Series



The Silver Lining to Vancouver's Homeownership Crisis

Priced out, working families and nonprofits take matters into their own hands. Start of a new solutions series.

By David P. Ball, 7 Nov 2014


Rental Housing Index

Novel Map Targets Hidden Opportunities for Affordable Housing

Launched today, new Rental Housing Index hopes to transform knowledge into power.

By David P. Ball, 17 Nov 2014


Singapore housing

If You Can Afford to Rent, You Could Be a Homeowner

Architect Avi Friedman scoured the globe for new housing forms we could apply in Canada.

By David P. Ball, 27 Nov 2014


Designing Sustainable Communities photo

Slideshow: Global Experiments in Affordable Homeownership

An architect's trek around the world serves as a brainstorm for Vancouver solutions.

By David P. Ball, 5 Dec 2014


Options for Homes

With Friends Fleeing Unaffordability, Vancouver Architect Looks East for Solutions

'Options from Homes' made homeownership possible for thousands in Ontario. Why hasn't it caught on here?

By David P. Ball, 9 Dec 2014


Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

Calgary's $2,000 Homeownership Hack

Free-market paradise over the Rockies is tackling housing crisis with a bold city-owned experiment.

By David P. Ball, 12 Dec 2014


Central Presbyterian Church

When God Is Your Developer

Religious communities are putting their faith, and their property, behind affordable housing.

By David P. Ball, 25 Dec 2014



Retirement Saving Could Help Build a Better Community

A canny Nova Scotian idea aims to pump millions into affordable rentals in Victoria.

By David P. Ball, 29 Dec 2014


Mansion entrance

Low-Rent Mansion Living? In Vancouver? Really?

Yes, really. Groups of frustrated renters are snapping up urban acreages, and spend less on housing than the rest of us.

By David P. Ball, 19 Jan 2015