Op-Ed: If you work hard, you should be able to afford a reasonable place to live and raise a family

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader, BC New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader, BC New Democrats

By John Horgan

VICTORIA: They may not be big dreams – signing a mortgage, painting the baby’s room, building the kids a swing set, mowing the lawn. But for many young people living in the Lower Mainland, they feel as out of reach as a lottery win.

In a region where million-dollar homes are the norm, a lottery windfall is exactly what most people starting life in the Lower Mainland would need to buy the kind of home they imagined raising kids in. And renting in the city is nearly as tough, with low supply, stiff competition, and opportunistic landlords looking to profit from people desperate for a safe and affordable place to live.

On Wednesday night, I joined nearly 800 people who gathered at an Emergency Housing Town Hall to talk about the extreme lack of affordable housing in the Lower Mainland.

For many young people I met, what the region’s crisis in affordable housing comes down to is this: they can’t have kids, because they can’t afford to house a family.

That’s not right. Yet Christy Clark and her government have stood by while home prices soared out of control, and showed astonishing coldness to an issue that impacts the future of not just thousands of young people, but our province’s most populous region.

The finance minister told the media repeatedly that housing affordability issues are only in Point Grey. The housing minister said in the legislature that he thought housing in the Lower Mainland is “actually pretty affordable.” And the premier has told media that families priced out of the Lower Mainland real estate market should move to Fort St. John or Prince Rupert.

Rather than looking for solutions, Christy Clark and her government ignore the young people being forced to give up the dream of having a family in the city they call home.

So this week in the legislature, I proposed legislation that would begin to actually address affordability in the region.

This legislation I put forward would close loopholes that have allowed offshore investors to park their money in Lower Mainland real estate, and unscrupulous real estate agents to “shadow flip” homes, manipulating sales to their own financial advantage while avoiding paying taxes.

It would also see a housing affordability fund set up to help B.C. families, funded by those who are just trying to profit by purchasing and holding vacant properties for investment.

This proposal is about providing housing solutions for people, not safety deposit boxes for the wealthy.

If passed, this legislation would take significant steps towards protecting the future of the Lower Mainland, and protecting the right of young people to raise a family in any region of this province that they choose – not just the ones the premier recommends.

Christy Clark and her government have abandoned young people in the Lower Mainland. And those same young people, looking ahead of them at a future of debt, struggle and limitation, are leaving.

Wednesday’s town hall, hosted by New Democrat housing spokesperson David Eby, clearly hit a nerve. Hundreds of people came to participate in a packed community hall because the future of their communities was at stake. They deserve a provincial government that takes that seriously; a government that is there for them.

They deserve better than the cold shoulder they’re getting from Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals.