The #donthave1million rally has generated a great deal of media attention in Vancouver over the past week.
So it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that Mayor Gregor Robertson's office has emailed a statement to the media just as the housing protest was about to begin in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Here's what the mayor said:
"Today's #donthave1million rally for affordable housing is an important step to make the public aware of the negative impact that soaring housing prices are having on a younger generation in Vancouver. I hear on a daily basis from people who are struggling to stay in the city, whether it's finding a decent place to rent for their family or a modest home to make an entry into the housing market. This conversation needs to happen and I hear the concerns loud and clear—and I hope the provincial and federal governments are listening too.
"City Hall is doing what we can to shift the housing market towards more affordable housing, whether it's through incentives to build rental housing instead of condos, requiring more family units in new projects, or investing a record $61 million into affordable housing this year. However, soaring housing prices in Vancouver—and throughout the region—require action from the BC and federal governments to create a more level playing field, which is why I raised the proposal for a speculation tax with the premier earlier last week.
"One of the biggest ways we could boost affordability in Vancouver and cities across the country is for the federal government to re-engage in housing. Steady, long-term cutbacks from the federal government are compounding our affordability challenges. There is huge demand from people on the affordable end of the market for new co-ops and family housing. We need a federal government to take a stand in support of affordable housing and in an election year, I urge everyone to make this a priority."
The reality is that the #donthave1million rally is predicated mostly on the desire of younger people to own single-family homes in Vancouver.
It's still easy to find condos selling for far less than $1 million.
Frankly, it's not realistic to think that most people will be able to purchase single-family homes in the city, given the shortage of single-family lots. You can't buy them in Manhattan.
You can't buy them in Central London. And now, it seems, you can't buy them in Vancouver.
A speculation tax sounds nice and makes it appear as though the mayor is doing something. But the reality is that housing will only be truly affordable if the city takes even more aggressive action to rezone single-family areas in Vancouver.
Zoning for affordable housing along the lush, tree-lined boulevards of King Edward Avenue, Angus Drive, and Cambie Street would be one way to start addressing the affordability crisis.
Incorporating Paris's approach of having far thinner streets would be another. This could enable much more housing to be built without having to resort to towers. And zoning policies that require developers to include more affordability—perhaps by eliminating parking stalls—would be another measure that would generate results.
Of course, none of this is likely to happen because the aging baby boomers who own single-family homes vote. They don't want to move into condo towers without parking stalls when they cash out on their residential nest egg. And Vision Vancouver councillors and the mayor don't want to commit political suicide.
In the meantime, most of us should get over the notion of owning a single-family house and a yard in Vancouver unless it's given to us by our parents.
There just aren't enough lots in the city for all of us even if False Creek Flats were entirely rezoned for housing.
If you want a single-family home, there's plenty of land in Surrey and Langley. But unfortunately, there aren't nearly as many cultural amenities, libraries, beaches, craft breweries, and nice restaurants in those cities. So that's why everyone wants to live in Vancouver.
It's called supply and demand.