Margot Young Interviewed on Co-op Radio

Housing Justice’s Margot Young spoke on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio, 100.3 fm, about the legal right to housing today.  On a special episode of the Common Law Radio show focused on the law around rental housing, Margot was featured along with Jill Atkey of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.  Margot spoke about the constitutional basis of the right to housing, highlighting the Tanudjaja case in Ontario.

Listen to the broadcast here:  Common Law Radio.  Margot’s segment begins at 39 minutes.


Penny Gurstein Speaks at Grandview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly

Penny Gurstein, co-Principal Investigator of the Housing Justice Project, spoke to the Grandview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly on December 15, providing her expertise on the topic of affordable housing.  As the Citizens’ Assembly focuses more on specific policy recommendations, the provision of affordable housing and preventing displacement are major priorities.

Penny’s remarks are summarized below:

Penny Gurstein, a professor with the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, began by questioning some assumptions. She said density does not necessarily create affordability, especially in a property market like Vancouver’s. “This has become a mantra that we need to be looking at very, very carefully.”

Gurstein said Vancouver has advantages, such as a sympathetic lender in Vancity and a robust non-profit housing sector. But she noted that the key tool in Vancouver is the community amenity contribution. These are public benefits negotiated by the City of Vancouver and the developer of new projects, usually in return for increased density. Gurtstein said these are often used for other benefits [such as daycares and arts venues], and that a study by the Housing Justice project [] at UBC suggests that from 2010 to 2012 only a couple hundred units of affordable housing were created in this manner.

The municipality of Whistler, she said, has used its housing authority effectively to develop housing geared toward those who work in the resort, and there are other international models. Vancouver’s own move earlier this year create a housing authority, she added, may improve the municipality’s performance.

The real issue, she said, is high land costs, noting that the City of Vancouver holds a lot of land that it sometimes rents for a nominal value. Gurstein pointed also to the community land trust model, where escalating land values are essentially taken out of the equation in developing new housing.

When asked if enough attention is paid to small-scale affordable rental available in private residences, Gurstein said such landlords sometimes see themselves as social service providers, and that the federal government has at times provided tax incentives to create such rental housing, but they generally aren’t treated as others are in the provision of rental housing. Andrew Pask added that about three-quarters of Grandview-Woodland’s rental stock was purpose built, and 20 to 25 percent is available as secondary suites or condominiums that are being rented.

The full record of the proceedings from the December 15 Citizens’ Assembly meeting can be found here: Granview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly.

This Week in Housing News: Research from the Housing Justice Project!

This week saw research from the Housing Justice Project’s Penny Gurstein featured in two stories.  The Vancouver Sun looked at the impact that CACs are having on affordability in Vancouver, while the Globe & Mail reported on homelessness in the city.  The Toronto Star also featured the affordability stories of five Toronto neighbourhoods, using research from David Hulchanski, a professor at the University of Toronto.


Developers’ exemption doing little for Vancouver’s affordability crisis: UBC study

Research from the Housing Justice Project shows that very little of the Community Amenity Contributions charged to developers are directed toward affordable housing, despite strong evidence that such assistance is sorely needed in Vancouver.  Data on how CAC funds are spent is scarce, but Vancouver’s Chief Housing Officer insists that more affordable housing units have been financed through CACs since the period covered in the Housing Justice Project’s research.  Housing Justice Project principal co-investigator Penny Gurstein recommends that the city set specific targets for establishing affordable housing through the CAC program.  (Vancouver Sun)


Vancouver police refute ‘spike’ in crime near new housing projects

The Vancouver Police Department has responded to an assertion made by the North False Creek Business and Residents Association, which claimed in a petition that the opening of a shelter at 900 Pacific St has led to a “spike” in crime.  The VPD confirmed that they had not seen an increase in crime in the area.  The organizers of the petition demand that shelters be removed from their neighbourhood.  Penny Gurstein commented that relocating services to the Downtown Eastside is not a solution.  Rather, homelessness is a city-wide issue, and those who experience homelessness may benefit from living outside of the Downtown Eastside.  (Globe & Mail)


Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 7.57.31 PMA tale of income inequality in five Toronto neighbourhoods

The Toronto Star traces the changes in income inequality in different areas of the city using research from David Hulchanski.  The general trend shows a growing polarization in terms of wealth, which is a concern to academcis and policy-makers alike.  (Toronto Star)


This Week in Housing News: Public Housing Policy & Housing Rights

B.C. government off-loading public housing with Stamps Place sale, Jenny Kwan says

MLA Jenny Kwan comments on the Provincial government’s recent action to sell Stamps Place, a social housing development, to non-profit agencies.  She believes that this is part of a broader trend of the government stepping back from its role in providing social housing, as she does not believe that the government will maintain the subsidies supporting renters.  (The Georgia Strait)


Should housing be a human right? Experts across Canada sound off

In Ontario, a recent Court of Appeal ruling determined that it is the role of the government to decide whether housing should be a human rights.  Advocates intend to bring the case to the Supreme Court.  Metro News reports on the opinions of several housing experts on the matter.  (Metro News)

Bob Rae: Whether in Toronto or Attawapiskat, housing policy a dismal failure

Bob Rae highlights the extent of Canada’s housing problems, from the troubling colonial relationships governing First Nations reserves, to the off-loading of housing responsibilities to municipal governments.  Ultimately, he claims, Canada needs to reprioritize housing and  restructure its housing strategy.  (Globe & Mail)

Rental Crunch: Housing minister warns of possible hikes under rent-control system

BC Housing Minister Rich Coleman has suggested that he may relax rent control measures, which currently restrict the amount that landlords can increase rents each year to 2% plus the rise of the Consumer Price Index.  Coleman suggests that the current rules to not fully allow landlords to cover costs such as increases in property taxes, but renters’ advocacy groups say that the changes will significantly hurt renters.  (The Province)


Few Options for Homeless as San Jose clears camp

Authoriets have cleared out the Jungle, a homeless encampment that was home to 300 inhabitants in San Jose.  The Jungle had existed for about a year and a half, and at 68 acres, was one of the country’s largest makeshift settlements.  Unfortunately, very few measures have been put in place to support those who have been displaced by the clearing of the settlement, and many former inhabitants have few prospects.  (New York Times)



This Week in Housing News: From Vienna to Vancouver

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 10.45.01 PM

BCNPHA Reveals BC renters facing ‘affordability crunch’

A new tool developed by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association shows the extent of the affordability issue in BC.  Data for the Rental Housing Index was collected through extensive surveys across the province.  The index is the first of its kind in Canada, and will be updated every year.  The data show that nearly a quarter of BC renters are spending mro than half their income on housing, which is considered “crisis level” spending.  (BCNPHA, CBC, The Tyee)


Housing affordability stays top of mind for Metro Vancouver mayors

Yet another survey has revealed that Vancouver’s affordability crisis is deep and far-reaching.  The survey, conducted by the Urban Development Institute and Insights West, showed that only 40% of Vancouverites have the annual income needed to qualify for a mortgage for a concrete condominium.  The article includes comments from Metro Vancouver’s newly elected Mayors on the topic of affordable housing.  (The Vancouver Sun)


Social housing policy helps Vienna

In an editorial, a reader draws on her experience in Vienna to provide a suggestion for the provision of social housing in Vancouver.  Are mid-rise social housing units a potential answer for Vancouver’s housing issues?  (The Vancouver Sun)

This Week in Housing News: Homelessness and Hot Housing Markets

Homelessness Plans leave women and girls out in the cold

The Women Transforming Cities campaign brings attention to the specific needs of homeless women and girls.  They are often left out of homeless counts as they are forced to stay off the street and hide for safety.  (Women Transforming Cities)


Bringing Justice to Housing Costs: Interview with Penny Gurstein & Margot Young

In this interview with the two co-principal investigators on the Housing Justice Project, Penny Gurstein and Margot Young explain how candidates in the municipal elections could work to improve housing affordability in our city.  (UBC)



Young Vancouverites fleeing to more affordable pastures

Penny Gurstein talks to Metro News about the trend of young people leaving Vancouver for more affordable cities.  A combination of low wages, rising unemployment, and increasing land prices have encouraged young people to move to cities such as Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto.  (Metro)


Income Inequality Update from @Hulchanksi

University of Toronto professor and housing advocate David Hulchanski shares an update to the income inequality situation in Vanada.  Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary are the Canadian cities where the top 1% of earners make most of the total annual income.  (Twitter)


A New Model for Affordable Housing

The New York Times explores the example of the Astoria Cove development in New York to illustrate how cities can use zoning to leverage developers to include social housing.  After weeks of negotiations with the developer, New York city council approved a development with 27% affordable housing (up from 20%), including units for as low as $800 a month.  (The New York Times)


A House is Not a Credit Card

Bethany McLean explores the troubling trend of people refinancing their mortgages and taking on extra debt in order to receive the difference in cash.  Essentially, they’re taking on credit, using their homes like a credit card.  (The New York Times)



Home prices surge in Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver (and, oh, Hamilton)

Indicators for housing prices show a recent increase in some Canadian markets, including Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary.  (The Globe & Mail)

This Week in Housing News: Mayoral Powers and London’s Housing Boom

Big Cities, Small MayorsBig Cities, Small Mayors

Despite being the country’s major centres of population and economic activities, the Mayors of Canada’s largest cities face challenges with their limited authority in relation to other levels of government.  Their lack of power has meant that in some cases, cities like Vancouver and Calgary are unable to cope with their growing needs.  (The National)


Housing Affordability: Is the Real Issue Our Expectations?

Shelley Fralic explores the idea of affordable home ownership in the Lower Mainland by questioning the paradigm that families have to buy single-family homes.  While that may have been an achievable dream for the Baby Boomer generation,  young families may have to look instead to condominiums for home ownership.  (The Vancouver Sun)


Vancouver’s House Price Crunch: Campaign Pledges and Pitfalls

With election rhetoric ramping up before November 15th, the Tyee has examined what degree of control the municipal government actually has over affordable housing.  SCARP Adjunct Professor Andy Yan reports that the Provincial government has much greater control over housing, while the city lacks information on the number of empty housing units in the city.  Other topics covered include the role of City Council in tweaking development proposals,  Vision Vancouver’s rental unit goals, social housing, and the possibility of implementing a Whistler-style housing authority in Vancouver.  (The Tyee)


Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 1.47.59 AM London’s Housing Boom

Reni Eddo-Lodge reports on the phenomenon of sky-rocketing housing prices in London.  Sites like Stratford, the East London site of the Olympics, the average rent is half the local average income.  The appearance of modern new buildings reflect a narrative familiar to Vancouverites: the ideal of home ownership is one that is slipping out of reach for many young people.  (The New York Times)


Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 1.47.28 AMThe State of Homelessness in Canada 2014 Report Released

The 2014 State of Homelessness in Canada report has been released.  The research summarizes efforts from the past year to relieve homelessness, provides an assessment of current needs, and highlights affordable housing as a way to move forward on eliminating homelessness.  (State of Homelessness in Canada)