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LETTER: Government drives up cost of affordable housing

An Ottawa developer digs into building costs after reading about Langley’s new affordable housing

Dear Editor,

I read your article about affordable housing issues in Langley. [Rents out of reach at Langley affordable housing project, say would-be tenants, langleyadvancetimes.com, Nov. 29]

While affordable housing is an issue nation-wide and probably globally, I don’t see it as an issue ever getting fixed until people can wrap their heads around two concepts.

First, there’s no such thing as affordable housing. It doesn’t exist for the poor or the struggling. It is literally impossible to create affordable housing.

The only thing that can be done to make housing, or more specifically rents “affordable” to people who, say make less than $24,000 per year, is to make someone else pay for it.

And of course, the only ‘someone else’ that could realistically be, is government. Unfortunately, that brings me to my second point, namely rents are high due to, in good measure, government. Full stop.

Government sets hydro rates, water and sewer rates, influences insurance costs, applies carbon taxes to natural gas used for heating, sets property taxes and perhaps worst of all, uniformily does a woefully bad job with land planning. Whether it be zoning, land planning or permitting processes, government often has its head stuck so far up its ass that it’s not even aware of how much damage it’s doing.

They’ll deny it of course but when it takes a couple of years, sometimes several years to get a subdivision approved and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions in fees and taxes, it doesn’t take a genius to see why housing costs so much.

• READ MORE: Langley cohousing plans closer to reality

As a tiny developer in Ottawa, I just completed my third year with an application and my best guess is we’re still another year out from putting a shovel in the ground. This is not the exception but fairly routine. The net result being nearly $1.5 million in extra interest costs applied to the project plus an additional $500,000 in related costs or about $200,000/acre of land.

These extra costs must be passed on to the buyers of the finished lots and in turn, will be passed on to the end user.

A government system that actually functioned as it should would benefit all. It’s not just an academic eye-glazing exercise.

Canada competes globally for talent, capital and resources; we have a good country for sure but if we continue this belief that Canada is a natural magnet that will attract without much effort or consideration of our processes, we run the very real risk of being passed by.

Brian Dagenais, Ottawa

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