Since the Victoria legislature reconvened on January 9, the Liberal government has taken a daily beating on housing affordability at the hands of David Eby and other New Democrat MLAs.
Yesterday (January 15), the Liberal MLA representing Chilliwack-Hope shot back, arguing the simple reality is that not everybody can afford a house in Vancouver, and that’s okay.
Laurie Throness recounted how he settled in the suburbs and suggested other people could do the same.
“In my own case, I moved several years ago from Ottawa back to the Fraser Valley,” he said. “I wanted to live in Vancouver, so I explored that option. I didn't even explore the option of buying a detached home, but I looked for condos and soon found that I wasn't able to afford to live there.
“There's nothing wrong with that. I didn't go to the papers. I didn't complain to the government. I didn't complain to the opposition. I didn't go to the Human Rights Tribunal. I bought in Abbotsford. It was a beautiful place to live. I loved my place there.”
In January 2016, the benchmark price of a single-family detached home on Vancouver’s east side was $1.23 million, according to the Real Estate Board of Metro Vancouver. Homes on the city’s west side rose to a benchmark price of $2.93 million.
Throness collects an MLA’s basic salary of $102,878.00 plus $15,431.70 for his role as a parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice.
Speaking again in the legislature, Throness suggested a house in Vancouver is something the government may not be able to deliver for everybody who wants one.
“I think we need to accept that we can't create new land in Vancouver,” he said. “There's very limited space. We can't change the beauty of the mountains and the ocean and the setting, its great climate, the geographic placement and all the cultural diversity that makes it an attractive place to live. So demand is unlikely to fall.
“We can't change what I would call the major structural elements of the Vancouver housing market. In fact, I would say that many homeowners are very happy about the rising value of their homes.
“The member [NDP MLA George Heyman] has a Vancouver-centric view, and I guess we can forgive him for that, since he lives there. But perhaps he could lift his eyes from the streets of his own city to other places in the province like Chilliwack, which is a very affordable place to live. It's a beautiful place to live. It has lots of jobs and amenities.”
Rob Fleming, NDP MLA for Victroria-Swan Lake, responded to Throness by arguing housing affordability is a challenge faced by people not just in Vancouver but living throughout the province.
“The affordability crisis affects middle-class working families in my region who cannot rent or buy housing within their means,” Fleming said.
Earlier in the session, Eby, NDP housing critic and the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, criticized a $355-million plan for affordable housing the government announced on February 12.
"The actual actions of this government speak much louder than many of the words we're about to hear," he said. "For example, if this government is investing so much money in affordable housing, why have they had so little effect?"