The following was originally published in the Times Colonist
Development policies don’t just affect buildings; they also determine who can live in a community. Many current policies discourage affordable urban infill, which excludes lower- and middle-income families from desirable neighborhoods. This is inefficient and unfair. The 1.5% Neighborhood Solution could ensure that communities accommodate all types of households: poor and rich, small and large. We challenge residents to say, “Yes in our backyard! We welcome diversity!”
More Affordable Housing is Needed
Many low- and middle-income families lack affordable housing and transportation options. This harms those households, and reduces businesses ability to recruit talent, reducing local economic development. Limiting urban infill causes sprawl, which displaces openspace and leads to more automobile travel and associated costs. Everybody benefits if any household that wants can find suitable housing in a walkable urban neighborhood.
Single-detached homes require far more land, are far more costly to own, and so require far higher incomes than condominiums and townhomes. The graph below compares Victoria Core benchmark housing prices and the minimum incomes required to purchase them, assuming 30% maximum income devoted to mortgages. When somebody says, “I only want detached houses in my neighborhood” they are essentially saying, “I only want households earning more than $160,000 in my neighborhood.”
Housing Prices and Income Requirements
Victoria’s population currently grows about 1.5% annually. To become more affordable and diverse we must increase our housing supply faster than that rate, adding at least 1,000 units annually. There are currently about 4,000 new housing units under development in Victoria, but these are mostly downtown highrises, which are costly to build and unsuitable for many households, particularly families with children. The greatest unmet need is for compact, moderate-priced housing in walkable neighborhoods.
A reasonable target is for residential neighborhoods to increase housing supply at least 1.5% annually. Most of these new houses should be moderately priced ($300,000-600,000), so they are initially affordable to middle-income households and becomes affordable to the lower-income households as they depreciate. Each neighborhood must add 25-125 new units per year, a modest growth rate but higher than what currently occurs in most neighborhoods. Policy reforms will be needed to allow more compact and affordable infill.
For more information see the Victoria Affordability Backgrounder.