Housing Challenges Being Faced By Local Municipalities

In September, mayors and councillors held their Union Of BC Municipalities (UCBM) Annual General Meeting in Vancouver. As with other years, a major topic for discussion was housing challenges and how they are playing out in different parts of the province. It is not just big cities like Vancouver and Victoria that are affected, all different communities of different sizes are having serious housing challenges.

Issues being faced:

Lack of skill trades

Communities that are approving more housing are facing a shortage of skill trades and construction staff to build the units. Projects are being delayed by several months. The construction industry is short of thousands of workers, and this labor shortage is going to remain and it’s only going to increase. These vacancies are pushing up building costs and impede productivity.

A challenging financial situation

Cost overruns is another major problem being faced by the construction industry, that is directly connected to the housing crisis being faced by municipalities. Projects that are approved are being stalled due to the high cost of labour, materials and supply chain issues, making the construction of new homes more and more expensive. 

Infrastructure woes

Infrastructure and housing go hand in hand. Municipalities are approving more housing to accommodate the influx of people into their regions, but there are worries that the current infrastructure is not able to keep pace and support the new residents. New schools and hospitals must be built, sewage and water systems must be upgraded, transit systems must be improved, etc.  to accommodate the new residents. All this takes a lot of time, planning and a lot of money. This is especially difficult when most local governments face budgetary constraints.

High Immigration

The federal government has set very high immigration targets – 485,000 in 2023 and 500,000 in 2025. Most of the new immigrants gravitate towards large metropolitan areas in Metro Vancouver and other parts of BC. BC absorbs roughly 20% of new immigrants into Canada – last year it welcomed 83,000 new immigrants. The high immigration targets have been set to fill the labour shortages being felt throughout the whole province and country. New immigrants are part of the problem that they are supposed to solve, as they require housing which is in short supply.

Disconnect between provincial and municipal governments.

Projects like new schools in fast growing municipal neighborhoods are being promised by the provincial government. Years later when families start moving in, there is little no movement on the construction process, causing a lot of frustration. 

Short term rentals

Short term rentals have made a visible impact on the local governments’ community housing. A lot of rentals that were formerly long-term, have been converted to short-term, as short-term rentals are more profitable to the owners. Better data is required to police and regulate these rentals. Currently, local governments contract with third-party data providers that scrape booking sites or assign staff to manually scan the various platforms. This method does not yield accurate and reliable data. 

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