BC Residents Weight In On How To Reduce Homelessness
Homelessness is a big problem in Vancouver, BC. Most agree on this, but there is less agreement on the methods that can be used to reduce homelessness.
With a few minor exceptions, most BC residents don’t think about the government — federal, provincial, local — makes an appropriate contribution to combating homelessness. Tensions surrounding Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the tent city that formed on East Hastings Street last month only drew more attention to the issue, particularly around the government’s role.
Homelessness will no doubt be one of the top issues in this fall’s municipal elections. Elected officials are supposed to carry out the will of the people, so it is important to recognize what the people want. A survey conducted by Research Co. earlier this month of about 800 BC residents attempted to do just that, quantifying how people feel about various possible methods of reducing homelessness.
Methods to combat insanity
The methods put forward to respondents were: “Changing zoning laws to allow landowners to build more units on standard lots”, “Incentivising developers to focus on building affordable housing units”, “Moving tax money to build”. provide units to house the homeless”. ‘ and ‘Increasing temporary housing opportunities for people affected by homelessness.’ Respondents were then asked to rate their opinion on these options: ‘strongly agree’, ‘tend to agree’, ‘tend to disagree’ ‘, ‘do not agree at all’ or ‘not sure’.
When grouping “strongly agree” and “moderately agree”, the method that received the highest level of agreement, at 80%, was “increase temporary housing opportunities”. That seems too broad and like a no-brainer, but the keyword here is “temporary.” The survey did not define the term, which could technically include monthly rentals, but is likely phrased to mean things like emergency shelters and single-occupancy units. Still, many signs point to a lack of affordable and temporary housing of all kinds in Vancouver. Tent cities like the one that formed in East Hastings last month are there for a reason, with many having literally nowhere to go.
The method that received the second most approval rate, at 78%, was offering developers incentives for affordable housing. The City of Vancouver has had such an incentive program, the Moderate-Income Rental Pilot Scheme, for a number of years. In an official FAQ document, the city said the program “encourages the development of new below-market rental housing across the city and ensures that rents in a portion of the units created are secured at consistently affordable rates and are available to middle-income households.” be asked.” The provincial government has similar incentives of its own. However, it’s unclear how much these incentives helped, but it’s safe to say they probably won’t hurt.
The provision of tax money for the construction of affordable housing achieved the third most common approval with 67%. No one particularly likes paying taxes, but it’s important to remember that taxes pay government to raise living standards. who is taxed and how much they are taxed is of course critical. Vancouver has a famous vacancy tax. Paul Kershaw, a professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and founder of think and change tank Generation Squeeze, recently proposed a federal tax that would make owners of homes worth over $1 million pay a tax , money that would then be diverted to address the housing and affordability issues plaguing places like British Columbia and Ontario.
Finally, at 60%, the zoning law was changed to develop more housing. This alludes to what is referred to as “density”. Not unlike the traditional, scientific definition, increasing housing density means increasing the living area without taking up additional horizontal space. In practice, for a large metro area like Vancouver, this usually looks like the focus is on multi-story buildings rather than single-family homes. Again, the City of Vancouver has attempted to facilitate this with what they call “density bonus” and “density relaxation.” Recent TransLink SkyTrain expansion projects have also placed an emphasis on “transit-oriented” development, which is also related to density.
Actions to fix the problems
None of these methods alone can solve BC’s homelessness problem. (Let’s be realistic: we can’t solve Homelessness; let’s just aim for it to reduce it.) But all together, in conjunction with other methods, maybe things can change.
In the same Research Co. poll, respondents were asked if they think homelessness has increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the past three years. Forty-two percent of respondents said homelessness has increased in their neighborhood. 63% said homelessness has increased in their community. 79% said homelessness has increased in BC. This indicates that while there is evidence that various levels of government have attempted to address homelessness using the above four methods, this is not sufficient.
The data shows that a majority of people agree with these four methods – and that agreement applies to all demographics of respondents, including gender, age, ethnicity, region, income level and the political party they voted for in 2020 . that these are sound methods, but they are simply not used enough to bring about change. Let’s just hope it’s not because people don’t take it seriously enough. In Vancouver, what we can’t afford is still enough.
Howard is a resident writer at STOREYS. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, he has also written about media for One Zero and international politics for WhoWhatWhy.
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