We are all in agreement that housing prices, for first time home buyers and renters, are climbing at an unsustainable rate, but many believe it is caused by a shortage of supply. On a local scale this is true, but on the global scale the picture is often ignored because the answer isn’t to simply build more!

In fact, there has been significant pressure on housing stock in primary markets such as Vancouver and Toronto from foreign investors looking for a safe haven for their capital. They don’t actually live there! This is especially true from Chinese investors who see our housing market as far safer than many assets in China. 

The result is insufficient housing supply to satisfy both domestic and foreign demand. The real problem, in these primary markets, is that while foreign investors can afford to speculate on investments in real estate, many average domestic buyers are getting priced out of the basic need for housing. 

In secondary and tertiary markets, such as the Comox Valley, there is in-flow of capital as property owners from those primary markets cash out and invest in our relatively inexpensive housing, essentially causing a similar pressure on supply. While this presents an opportunity to grow our economy, we must also deal with affordability issues for lower income families, youth and seniors, as well as manage the growth in an environmentally and socially responsible way. This requires planning. 

I believe there should be well though out policy to guide our growth to maximize our land and minimize inefficient sprawl. The term for planning for growth with consideration to environmental, social, and economic factors is Smart Growth (see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_growth)

While it’s true we should capitalize on our opportunity to build more housing in the valley it would be short sighted to simply open the floodgates for any and all development with no regard for which housing markets the valley needs for sustainable growth. There is no guarantee or even realistic expectation that building hundreds of units for sale in the current market will cause a decrease in the supply price for first time buyers or renters, because the market is seemingly insatiable. 

In my opinion, it would be wiser to tackle the issues of economic growth, population growth, and affordability under the umbrella of Smart Growth… Plan an efficient community and work to provide a variety of housing, including market rentals and subsidized market rentals for students, seniors, and families in need. 

David Frisch

Courtenay City Councillor

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