Why Affordability Matters

In this article, Erick Villagomez argues that affordable housing, by enabling urban diversity, is the key to a city's economic and social sustainability.
October 3, 2008, 11am PDT | Judy Chang
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"With regards to housing, the discussion of affordability is directly connected to issues of urban diversity at a number of different levels. As we all know, Vancouver's prosperity has forced upward pressures on housing costs for decades. In recent years, the surge in real estate prices, the declining share of rental housing stock, and the disappearance of senior governments in building new social housing, have compounded Vancouver's affordability problems. While there has been a prolonged residential construction boom, much of this is aimed at the high end of the market, thus serving to exacerbate affordability trends.

One need only look to the major increases in the costs of rental accommodations in order to understand the rate and nature of this drastic change. According to Royal Lepage quarterly statistics, the rent for a standard condo on the west side of Vancouver was $2,200 per month at the end of 2007, up 50% from 2004 ($1,600 per month), and more than double the rates of 2000 ($1,000 per month). Similarly, renting a house costs $3,500 per month in 2007, compared to $1,600 in the 2001 and 2002 period.

But affordability issues go beyond simply owning or renting homes because it ultimately affects the distribution of people, activities and services. This, in turn, has severe social and long-term economic impacts by decreasing a city's overall diversity, and thus resilience to rapid change."

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Published on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 in re:place Magazine
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