Some interesting things are emerging from the froth and churn being generated by the housing affordability crisis on Canada’s left coast.
For the first and probably last time since the dawn of civilization, on June 24th a public rally is being held to demand more economic and demographic data by those who want to know whether foreign buyers, vacant homes, speculation, geography or other factors are responsible.
Also emergent is history’s first trustworthy definition of human happiness, notwithstanding the efforts of countless generations of bright philosophers. According to an Angus Reid poll of Metro Vancouver residents, it means owning a house with no mortgage, no commute and no more than two people living in it.
It’s good to see some reasonable and informed voices finally joining the debate, which with any luck will stem the rush toward ill-thought-out solutions and embarrassing displays of xenophobia this issue has provoked.
Others are pointing out the legal impediments to some of the simplistic remedies being proposed, including section 39 of the BC Property Law Act, which says that a “person who is not a Canadian citizen has the same capacity to acquire and dispose of land in British Columbia as if he or she were a Canadian citizen.”
Interestingly, that provision can be traced back to An Act to enable Aliens to hold and transmit Real Estate from 1861, proclaimed by the first governor of the Colony of British Columbia at the urging of Downing Street, which recognized the negative consequences of restricting ownership of real estate to naturalized citizens. One hopes no such intervention from across the Pond will be required this time around.
While the seriousness of the affordability crisis and its effects must be acknowledged, so must its complexity and implications for fundamental values – and therefore the need for our best long term thinking and measured responses.