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The Current State of Housing Stresses the Need for More Collaboration  

Shaheed Devji

BC Real Estate Association

Trevor Hargreaves

BC Real Estate Association

Without true collaboration between governments, the private sector, and public-interest groups, efforts to address Canada’s housing crisis will always fall flat.

For decades now, the housing sector has been a crucible of economic and social challenges, and despite efforts from governments of all stripes at all levels to find solutions to the housing affordability crisis, owning and renting a home has never been more difficult. 


The way of the past has not been effective enough. Policymakers, stakeholder groups, and the public all have decisions to make that will affect the state of housing for the foreseeable future. We can settle for the same old reactive approach to housing policy, or we can demand better — a new, more comprehensive and collaborative approach.  

Housing issues are intertwined, complex, and multi-faceted. To properly tackle these issues, it’s going to require equally diverse groups of carefully chosen policy experts from across government and the private sector working collaboratively to share ideas and pre-test policy for unintended problems before new housing measures are announced. This structure could be used to great effect at both the provincial and federal levels. Effectively, we would be creating a permanent housing roundtable.

Doing away with decisions made behind closed doors 

As it stands, ideas are being crafted and announced by often inexperienced government staffers, many of whom have no practical experience in the sector in question. Since this is a national crisis, let’s approach the issue with the appropriate resources and effort. Too often, proposed solutions to Canada’s housing crisis have been focused on quick fixes to calm public outcry at the latest bidding wars and soaring prices. Measures aimed at helping prospective buyers save more money for down payments are well-intentioned but don’t do enough. Other measures, such as the foreign home buyer’s tax, are failed policies before they’re even announced. They sound strong. They sound exciting and bold. But they also affect only a few minor percentage points of the total market and have practically no effect on housing prices.  

Decades of neglect in housing supply management form the bedrock of the affordability crisis.

Meanwhile, decades of neglect in housing supply management form the bedrock of the affordability crisis. Governments have failed to keep pace with population growth, leading to an acute shortage of housing stock. Concurrently, record-high levels of immigration have added strain to already stretched resources, exacerbating the demand-supply imbalance. 

Two steps forward, one step back 

On our side of the country in British Columbia, the NDP government led by David Eby has made valiant efforts to address the lack of supply with its Homes for People plan. By providing more types of housing — including laneway homes and secondary suites — across the province while speeding up the approval process, the focus has shifted to building more homes with fewer barriers. However, these measures were not universally welcomed. Some municipal governments, which bear the brunt of the responsibility to speed up development and permitting timelines, were openly critical, citing interference from the provincial government in municipal matters.  

Federally, the Liberals have also put additional focus on increasing housing supply. But again, their efforts have not been without controversy. In September 2023, Housing Minister Sean Fraser was in B.C. to announce funding for homes in Surrey and Burnaby through the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. The minister ended up cancelling his press conference after the Metro Vancouver Regional District contradicted his announcement, voicing the need for development cost increases.  

The fact that governments are working at odds once again illustrates the need for a more formal, consensus-driven policy approach that puts all levels of government on the same page. 

Putting politics aside for the greater good 

At the heart of it, these types of disagreements are the result of a fundamental flaw in the approach to dealing with the housing crisis and, frankly, most are issues that are political in nature. It screams of a lack of collaboration and consultation. There are far too many instances of the government working in isolation only to unveil a policy with immediate flaws that need to be remedied once market tested. 

The solution is the creation of permanent roundtables, both provincially and federally, where different groups can contribute to the process of finding solutions to the housing affordability crisis. These solutions, due to the collaborative nature of such working groups, would be thorough, broad, and tested. 

The policy experience and innovative solutions offered by public interest groups and private entities are often underutilized, hindering the development of holistic strategies. By harnessing the expertise of the private sector and fostering meaningful dialogue between all stakeholders, we can forge a path toward a more equitable and sustainable housing future. 

Visit bcrea.bc.ca to learn more about the work REALTORS® in BC are doing to support home buyers and sellers.

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