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Competing for Housing Is a Game of ‘Cruel Musical Chairs’

Sightline Institute video promotes important YIMBY solutions, but let’s go even further.

Submitted by Tyee Staff, 2 Nov 2017


Your heart might go out to the little animated citizens in this video scrambling for a chair.

That’s how Seattle-based think-tank Sightline Institute paints unaffordable cities for us. Everybody wants in, but if you want a seat you have to be more than fast — you also need cash.

Some solutions are suggested in the video. Add people to existing neighbourhoods with denser forms or infills (laneways, anyone?). Use industrial land for residential. This way, sprawl and long commutes can be countered.

The YIMBY (Yes in My Backyard) argument of building more homes is gaining momentum in housing-crunched cities, and it’s more or less a progressive one. It also happens to be an argument that developers love. What could be more profitable than getting people on board the mantra of supply, supply, supply?

While collaboration with the development industry is key, we need to pay attention to what kind of supply is being built, and that usually requires government regulation. More market condos won’t help those who don’t have the money to buy. Also, we shouldn’t be blinded by our housing crisis that we forget the need for urban industrial land, something the Port of Vancouver has been arguing.

As the video says, housing in pricey cities has become a “cruel” game. But as the housing industry and levels of government move in with solutions, let’s make sure our fixes include the whole spectrum of need.

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