An additional 10,000 affordable rental units need to be built around Metro Vancouver annually to begin fixing the housing crisis in the region, according to a report released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre on Policy Alternatives.
The report focused on building government-funded housing, rather than relying on the private sector.
“A lot of the focus on housing has been around private-built housing with homeownership as the goal,” senior economist Marc Lee told Black Press Media by phone.
But the people who need housing the most, Lee said, are low- or middle-income tenants who are not profitable for private builders.
Compounding the issue, he noted, is that although Metro Vancouver’s population has risen over the years, rental housing has not kept pace.
Between immigration and more people being pushed out of homeownership, “there’s a lot more competition for the same number of rental,” Lee said.
The report found that 10,000 new affordable rental units need to be built each year, at a cost of about $2.5 billion, in order to keep pace with population growth.
“There’s such a backlog [of people needing housing], so this is just to tread water,” Lee said.
“If we want to deal with the backlog or address homelessness, we need to go above and beyond that.”
The report acknowledges that $2.5 billion each year is a marked increase above the province’s average yearly capital budget of $10 billion.
Lee said the feds would need to step in as well, but points out that $2.5 billion cost would be made back by charging even low rents to tenants.
The report said that with a one bedroom apartment costing $180,000 to build, the public would earn back $216,000 over 30 years on that unit even with a subsidized rent of $600 per month.
Lee acknowledged that while the financials may work out, public opinion could be harder to sway.
“The challenge is going to be how this plays out on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis,” he said, citing opposition to modular housing in Vancouver and Surrey, as well as recently announced low-income housing for displaced tent city residents in Maple Ridge.
“It’s more about the conversation we need to have; we have a crisis and right now it’s leaving people on the streets and camping in parks.”