Teri Towner | Community Builder | Inspirational Speaker | Coquitlam City Councillor

Stop Building! Provide More Housing!

These are interesting times. I have been out and about connecting with residents regularly for many years but right now, during the campaign period, I’m out even MORE.  l absolutely love all the conversations I’m having with Coquitlam’s engaged residents.  I found this conversation particularly interesting:

Chatting with resident: “We have to stop or severely slow development down. There’s too much change!” A couple minutes later: “Housing is so expensive”, “It’s so hard to find a place to live here” and “There’s nowhere for young people to rent”. Hmmm.  So, to clarify I asked her, “You want more housing options created to address the supply issues but you want development to stop?”  She looked at me slightly bewildered and I gently told her that it’s not possible to create housing without actually building it!

The comment, “We have to slow development down.” – I get it.  People don’t like change.  Even when the resisted change results in a brand spanking new grocery store, a new park, new amenities or a revitalized, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. Many human beings simply don’t like it when their neighbourhoods change. We are creatures of habit and familiarity.  

I hear regularly, comments along the lines of, “Housing is so expensive”, “It’s so hard to find a place to live here” and “There’s nowhere to rent”. I agree.  Metro Vancouver is one of the most expensive housing markets in our country.  If I didn’t already live here, I absolutely could NOT afford to live here. 

With immigration numbers where they are at (more than 300,000 people coming to Canada every year), people living longer (which is a good thing!) and people CHOOSING to live in Metro Vancouver, how do we address the “Housing is so expensive”, “It’s so hard to find a place to live here.” and “There’s nowhere to rent” if we don’t build housing?

We can’t “slow development down” or “stop building” AND address the demand and need for housing at the same time. 

Another story:  I know someone who advertised to rent out a suite they own.  They advertised it for $1500/month and received interest from over 200 potential tenants in the first 24 hours of the ad.  They felt overwhelmed so they took the ad down and re-posted it for $2100/month.  The second ad still garnered interest from more than 100 people. Although this is very simple example, that’s what happens – when demand for something exceeds supply, the price goes up. In this case, the rent went up significantly!  Addressing the supply issue, so 200 people aren’t desperately seeking any given rental unit, will help address the increasing prices.  I am aiming for Coquitlam to achieve a comfortable 3% vacancy rate over this next Council term.  

I could provide numerous other examples of living in a market-based society.  I totally empathize that many people want their neighbourhoods to stay exactly as they are but if we do that, we aren’t being responsible with respect to addressing the housing challenges we are currently facing: for families, for seniors, people living in our region.

By the end of our conversation, the woman I was speaking with understood that.  She decided she’d rather have the housing crisis addressed and embrace the changes our land use is facing.  


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