The term affordable housing is tossed around often in government, but it seems to be no more than a buzzword. When it comes to making decisions, it is often forgotten. Ladysmith town council is set to hold a public hearing on potential rezoning at Churchill Place, which would allow 27 multi-family units and 10 lots for single-family units. Only a single one of these is designated to be affordable housing, according to town staff reports.
There is an evident problem when local governments know the homes they approve will not be attainable to the average working family. The average 20 per cent downpayment for a home in Canada is over $100,000, based on the Canadian Real Estate Association’s latest statistics, showing an average home price of $663,500. That is the flip side to affordable housing; paying a downpayment that should be the price of a starter home.
Housing has gotten so far out of reach that it is hard for many young people to imagine being able to afford their own place. The average first-time homebuyer is 36, according to the BC Notaries Association — and most (90 per cent) had financial support from parents for a downpayment in 2019. In order for most people to buy a home, they have to rely on wealth from older generations — there is something fundamentally wrong with this. It is up to governments to make policies to create a better future for younger generations.
The Cowichan Housing Association annual report, which was presented to council on Oct. 19, shows an increase in homelessness in the region and a dramatic rise in housing prices. This rise affects first-time homebuyers the most — combine this with a shortage of rental properties and you have a market that pushes anybody younger than a baby boomer nearly out of the picture. Among the recommendations in the housing report is a call to identify and acquire all land suitable for affordable housing — Churchill Place looks like a perfect fit.
It is being rezoned to be sold as a ready-to-develop property, so it is a prime opportunity for Ladysmith Council to be creative and improve the housing situation for residents. Multiple councillors expressed concern that more restrictions could make the land harder to sell, but council should be more concerned about the impact of the development on the community when it is finished, even if it takes more time. Only including one affordable unit will have little to no impact on the housing problem and is the equivalent of ignoring it.
More homes that people can’t afford without generational wealth will not help house the working class. If homes are not built to be affordable, they will only worsen the crisis.