On Broadway

(Written jointly with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

We have finally found some time to take a closer look at the Broadway Plan. There are many good things to say about the plan, it adds housing in an amenity and job rich area about to get a new subway line. It promises to not just undo the downzoning the city imposed on parts of the area in the 1970s but enables a bit more housing to make up for lost time.

The plan also tacks heavily against the displacement risk to renters in the established rental apartment areas by both 1) limiting the redevelopment potential in those areas and 2) increasing the strength of tenant relocation and right of return policies, a hard-learned lesson from the redevelopment activity around Metrotown in neighbouring Burnaby. In short, overall there’s a lot to like.

In this post we want to accomplish several somewhat diverse goals

  1. Provide some code to improve the data analysis in the plan that uses census data,
  2. Place the Broadway plan more firmly into context of historical zoning changes in that corridor, and
  3. Interrogate the decision to limit development potential in the existing low-density areas, which we have argued in the past make for ideal sites to concentrate development becaues of their low displacement implications.

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Estimating Suppressed Household Formation

(Written jointly with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TL;DR

We develop and elaborate a Montréal Method for estimating housing shortfalls related to constraints upon current residents who might wish to form independent households but are forced to share by local housing markets. Applying simple versions of the Montréal Method to Metro Areas across Canada suggests that Toronto has the biggest shortfall, which we estimate at 250,000 to 400,000 dwellings, depending upon assumptions. For Vancouver, the estimated shortfall range is narrower, from roughly 75,000 to 100,000 dwellings. But models suggest housing shortfalls remain widespread, and there is much room for further elaboration. Note: shortfalls estimated in this post only account for those due to suppressed household formation among residents and do not account for e.g. migration pressures, which means that overall housing shortfalls are likely much larger.

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What’s Up With Squamish?

(Written jointly with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

In our previous post we have outlined the broad problems with the recent UBCM report, in this post we return to one particular one, the comparison of dwelling growth to population growth for “BC Major Census Metropolitan Areas” (Figure 2 in the report), paying particular attention to Squamish as the largest outlier. To start out, let’s take a comprehensive look at how dwelling and population growth play out across BC’s CMAs and CAs.

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Unoccupied Canada

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TLDR

Canadian Census data on “Dwellings Unoccupied by Usual Residents” are frequently misunderstood. Now that data from 2021 are out, we provide a timely explainer and draw upon a variety of resources, including comparisons with US data, Empty Homes Tax data, and zooming in on census geographies, to help people interpret what we can see.

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No Shortage in Housing BS

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

Say you built a bunch of housing in a cornfield in the middle of rural Iowa. Would people come to live in it? Maybe. But probably not. Let’s imagine the same scenario scooted over to Vancouver. The conditions for our little field of dreams have changed. Here we’re pretty comfortable predicting: if you build it, they will come. Housing limits population growth here in a way it does not in rural Iowa.

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A Brief Data-Based Primer on Mobility and Housing

As a housing demographer, I’m on the lookout for various ways to explain basic aspects of how people and housing fit together. A recurring theme is that this stuff is not obvious to most people. For example, people tend to associate new housing in a metro area with new people coming to a metro area. In fact, most new housing houses people already living within a metro area. But their moves free up other housing, which often incorporates newcomers.

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Three Years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax Data

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

TL;DR

We now have three years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax data for BC, demonstrating generally less than one percent of properties pay the tax in most municipalities. We play around with the data we scraped from files released by the BC government to show

  • how the federal CHSP program systematically overstates “foreign ownership”
  • how source of revenue estimates shift depending upon definitions and tax rates
  • how properties are moving into rentals and
  • what else we can glean from exemptions and revenue data.

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Acting Locally on Housing

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

It may be a measure of the issue’s importance that in the midst of a major climate disaster (not to mention COVID, breakdowns in reconciliation, and other ongoing crises), the leader of the BC Green Party, Sonia Furstenau, dropped a new op-ed on housing. Timing aside, we see this as promising. As we’ve noted in comparing platforms going into the last election, the BC Greens could use some better planning on housing policy.

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