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Einstein Needed to Solve Housing Affordability

Trudeau’s national housing strategy did not recognize the important difference between affordable housing and housing affordability.

As Sean Speer, Macdonald–Laurier Institute says, “The former is about subsidized housing which is roughly 6% of the market. The latter refers to the affordability of market-based housing which covers the rest. While “both are important” Trudeau’s strategy was “largely silent on the market- based share.”

Speer says the federal govt can impact housing through policies ranging from mortgage insurance to the tax system.

For example, VRBA has long-advocated indexing the GST New Housing Rebate to inflation. Rising prices have made the rebate, (created in 1991), almost irrelevant because it caps out at home prices of $450,000. The average price for a single family home in our region is over $800,000 and even condos average $437,000.

Adjusting the rebate to today’s prices could have been a key part of a national strategy impacting young home buyers.

But the federal govt chose to keep the revenue. Instead their “strategy” is primarily a set of funding promises, most of which don’t kick-in until after the next election.

Of course, a credible strategy must also include land use, which is determined by municipalities, not the federal govt.

The province has authority over municipalities and could demand responsible regional planning to improve housing, transportation and infrastructure.

One solution is unifying 13 local govts, however the political will is lacking.

So we can expect more funding announcements labeled as “strategies” while poor govt policies undermining housing affordability remain.

As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

It seems we need more Einsteins in public office.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

Visit us at www.vrba.ca & www.careawards.ca. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

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