The North Star


2022 Vancouver Municipal Election

Could Mayoral Candidates’ “Solutions” Accelerate the Housing Crisis?

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Vancouver goes to the polls on October 15 for its municipal election. There are five parties running mayoral candidates and ten independent mayoral candidates. Once again, the housing crisis is front and centre, and once again, the candidates' proposals do not seem to be able to respond to a critical situation. 

Incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart of Forward Together and Ken Sim of ABC Vancouver are the clear front runners. Despite their slogans of "change" and "progress," their propositions to solve the housing crisis are almost identical and keep firmly on track the city's 20-year-old housing policy.

Despite minor differences, both Stewart and Sim's approach to the housing crisis is to increase the supply of housing on the market by rezoning large parts of the city to build luxury condo towers and low rises that include some below-market housing. This is paradoxical, since their policy attempts to ensure the profits of the real estate monopolies while also providing affordable housing.

Stewart and Sim plan to encourage real estate monopolies to build condo developments in working class neighbourhoods. Although these housing complexes may provide some below-market housing, the massive influx of luxury rentals in the market that usually comes with these types of developments tends to drive up the cost of housing overall.

This was the case in 2006 when the Woodward's redevelopment brought 526 luxury condos and 125 supportive housing units to the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. The 125 supportive housing units added some affordable (and highly surveilled) housing to the market.

But the 526 luxury condos incentivized the landlord of a nearby Single Room Occupancy hotel (SRO) to "renovict" tenants from 404 below-market rooms in order to drastically raise rent. A similar process has happened in Mt. Pleasant and Little Saigon.

The other less popular mayoral candidates also fail to differentiate their housing policy from the status quo, and as municipal politicians bicker over which band aid solution to pass, the housing crisis continues to worsen.

Over the course of Stewart's term as mayor, the price of an unfurnished one bedroom has increased 25% from $2,000 to nearly $2500 per month. On top of that, an April 2022 City of Vancouver report identifies 2,000 people experiencing homelessness, 7,000 people living in SROs, and 77,000 households with "unaffordable, unsuitable, or inadequate housing." The cost of housing is making Vancouver unliveable for many working class and poor people, and it is unlikely City Hall will provide a solution.

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