Had this happened 30 years ago, there would have been alarm bells going off in Ottawa and an emergency session in the house on how to tackle the problem and find a solution, not the inaction we see today.
The most serious issue in Vancouver and on the North Shore in my opinion is the price of a home. This issue has so many layers and players, it will be difficult to explain all the challenges and solutions in 600+ words but I will try and get my points across.
As we are all aware, the cost to own or rent a home in Greater Vancouver has gone beyond the financial reach of most Canadians, especially the ones who work in our communities and provide the services we desire and make our communities a great place to live. This should not have happened. The sole cause of this situation was bad governance, a lack of action and turning a blind eye by all levels of government in Canada. Had this happened 30 years ago, there would have been alarm bells going off in Ottawa and an emergency session in the house on how to tackle the problem and find a solution, not the inaction we see today. The underlying problem that is just now coming to light is the hollowing out of our cities and communities. If our leaders in Ottawa had any interest in solving this conundrum, they could end it tomorrow by passing two Bills in the house. One Bill would be to immediately end Quebec’s Immigrant Investor program.
The second would ban foreign ownership of existing residential real estate as New Zealand and Australia have already implemented. This would be a precursor to a total ban on foreign ownership of residential property with one exception: non-Canadians who want to buy a home to live in or visit could apply to the government to have permission to purchase a home in Canada with strict rules outlining penalties for flipping properties and not using the home as a residence.
At the moment, foreign ownership is primarily a Federal issue, but our existing Federal and Provincial governments are unlikely to do anything at all to address this quandary anytime soon. I would like to see West Vancouver and other Metro Vancouver cities and municipalities try to implement a similar initiative as Australia and New Zealand have done to keep residential property for residents who live and work in our communities. Limiting foreign buyers and their proxy owners from purchasing existing residential property would result in cooling down, not a collapse, of the price of real estate in Metro Vancouver. This would also ease the cost to rent.
The cost of doing nothing to bring housing prices back to reality is already becoming clear in the business and service community in West Vancouver and the rest of Metro Vancouver.
We often hear the “polispeak” from our politicians that we have a skilled labour shortage, and the only way to solve the problem is bringing more people to Canada. The reality is that our skilled labour force is actually moving away. As the price of a home to purchase or rent keeps going up, our skilled labour — chefs and servers, doctors and nurses, firefighters, police officers, teachers, etc. — is moving away from Metro Vancouver and in record numbers. If we don’t do something now to reverse the damage that has resulted from bad governance, we will see more and more viable businesses and service providers leave and close their doors. There will no longer be the businesses and services we count on to make our community a great place to live. This is happening as we speak.
One suggestion I have for our local governments is to start creating an abundant supply of rent-controlled housing for people who work full time in their community. This is how places like Whistler, Jasper, Banff and other resort communities can continue to offer services provided by people that would be unable to buy or rent in these areas and make them great destinations for residents and guests alike. Such an initiative could help retain the people we need to work here and provide the products and services we want.
I would like to see our local elected officials act with more honesty and openness, work hard, and commit themselves to improving the lives of North Shore residents. Creative solutions to existing challenges and better foresight are needed to avoid creating new challenges in the future.