Affordability brought my husband and me to Richmond in 2003 and I am vey concerned that affordability has disappeared from the city. While 38.8% of Richmond households have a gross family income of less than $50,000 a year, the price of a single bedroom in the city centre hovers around half a million dollars. There is a disconnect between local incomes and the price of housing. There has been lot of demolition and building in the city in the last few years but we have has not built to address the housing needs of people with local incomes and those who are entering this market as first time buyers without substantial housing inheritance from their families. If we keep building along the same patterns we have been building, we will just be digging our way deeper into this “unaffordability” hole.
There is a mismatch between supply and demand and we are either demolishing perfectly livable modest homes and massifying them into luxury out of scale 5-6 bedroom homes, or building too many single bedroom homes. In my opinion, we are designing scarcity of two and three bedroom homes that most people need to live. Richmond’s policies and bylaws have facilitated housing speculation and have not addressed issues around stable and affordable housing by claiming that this is happening because of an overheated market. Housing affordability is a complex problem and the market may have a role in shaping the city’s building trends but correctives within the city’s bylaws and policies could have been applied to tame these trends. The city has failed to take into account that the market is not a driverless car and we are the drivers of this car and can drive it in the correct direction to accommodate local needs for housing much more effectively.
There is also the rhetoric around individual property rights being supreme and this rhetoric fails to account for individual property rights of those who have opposed these trends and have been negatively affected and displaced by these trends as homeowners and renters. This rhetoric is also very damaging because it fails to take into account the very real ways in which our individual choices affect each other and this planet. A refusal to acknowledge this interconnectedness creates damaging and unsustainable patterns of consumption. As individuals and as a city we then become part of the problem because we refuse to take responsibility for our role in shaping this pattern. We can shape the future in more compassionate and sustainable ways by accepting that our choices shape other people’s choices /constraints and if we choose to consume more mindfully we will be able to build a much more income diverse, inclusive and resilient community/ city.
Planning a city is like planting a garden and we don’t see affordability in Richmond because we haven’t planted enough seeds for it. I believe that stable affordable housing is the cornerstone of a healthy and vibrant community and as a councillor I’d like to address this issue effectively.