Inflation rates are at their highest level in nearly 20 years, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting global supply chains and rising consumer demand. With home prices rising across Canada, affordability has been a major issue in the federal election campaign.

To solve what is being called Canada’s housing crises, it will be necessary to examine both transportation and housing. These two main drivers of inflation are inextricably linked and together account for 50% of Canadian household spending.

To show how the cost of living today has increased, comparisons are made frequently between the baby-boomer and millennial generations. The average house value, vehicle purchase prices, and gasoline costs have more than doubled in relation to income growth since the 1970s. These are significant increases but if you look closely, your lifestyle expectations could be even more important.

The average Canadian home has grown from 1,050 to 2,100 square feet in size since 1975. This is despite the fact that there are only one more people living in Canada today. In the 1970s, neighbourhoods were 30 percent more dense than they are today. There were fewer suburbs that required long drives.

The average vehicle owned by each household has increased more than twice, while the vehicles’ sizes have dramatically increased. Today, more than 80 percent of all automobiles sold in Canada are either trucks or SUVs. This compares to just 20 percent in 1970.

Comparisons of affordability between today’s generation and that of the baby-boomer generation should consider lifestyle, as well as cost. The baby boomers bought smaller homes, fewer cars, and drove less.

It is important to design neighbourhoods that enable people to live in a less car-dependent lifestyle, and have greater access to different housing types and sizes. The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index (USA) studied 20 major metropolitan areas. It found that combined housing and transportation costs accounted for 20% less income in those neighborhoods where biking, walking and public transit are more feasible options than in distant, car-oriented communities.

There are many strategies at the civic level that can help create affordable housing. These include neighbourhood design. Incentivizing the construction of more affordable housing options, such as secondary suites and duplexes and triplexes in mature, walkable neighbourhoods is a way to increase accessibility to a better lifestyle.

It is important that governments stop imposing minimum parking stall requirements for new residential developments. Developers are free to design what is best for their market. This allows them to reduce the number of stalls they build, which means that the cost of construction — which can run as high as $60,000 for underground stalls — is not included in rents or prices.

Infill buildings can be built on smaller properties than are required to meet parking requirements by eliminating parking minimums. This includes developments such as basement suites and laneway housing, which provide gentle neighbourhood density and increased access to affordable housing.

Developers could relax density restrictions for multi-family housing, allowing them to divide land values and other costs among a larger number of units. This would make rents more affordable and more economically feasible.

While cities can help create more affordable neighborhoods through planning and zoning processes, federal and provincial governments also have an important role in aligning funding sources with civic priorities. Affordable city-building requires collaboration between all levels of government. We have seen in Winnipeg how federal funds for public transit can be wasted if provincial priorities are not compatible.

Federal and provincial governments may offer programs to encourage and subsidize the construction of diverse housing types, such as co-op housing and secondary suites. These could also be used to provide affordable rental options for the 30% of Canadians who rent. It is vital that the primary focus of housing assistance remains in all areas for homeless people and those living in core housing need (defined as unsuitable, inadequate, or unaffordable housing) in Canada.

Housing and transportation account for half of household spending in Canada. It is important to address today’s cost of living challenge by designing our neighborhoods. It is fundamental to consider affordability when choosing the type and location of housing you build. Every level of government must work together to create more housing options and transportation options in all neighborhoods. This will enable more people to live a high-quality life and be more affordable.

 

Sandi Branker is a Real Estate agent and a Think Ely Real Estate Team member at Zolo Ottawa. She can be reached at (613) 408–7935 or by email at sandi@thinkelyrealestate.com. Facebook| Google My Business |Website Home Page |

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