EDITORIAL: North Shore councils need to give rentals their due

Another year, another CMHC report that shows just how brutal our North Shore rental housing market is, with dangerously low vacancy rates and ever increasing rents.

The feds used to subsidize market rental construction, which delivered a steady supply of modest-income housing. But when we cut off the subsidies in the 1980s, developers cut off the supply of new rentals and we are now more than 30 years into a crisis.

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Many of those older apartments are reaching the end of their lives and the ones that are still standing are out of reach of modest-income earners, unless they’ve been living there for a long time.

Developers are cautiously getting back into building rentals, but our councils are all too tempted to look at the sky-high market rates and turn them down for being unaffordable, forgetting it was the lack of new units coming online that created the crisis in the first place. It’s too late to fix the crisis in the short term but that doesn’t give us licence to exacerbate it over the long term. A city’s housing needs change. Even councillors opposed to growth must realize we need housing diversity.

When it comes to rentals, we want our council members to put themselves in the shoes of the folks who need a home today. They could be single parents, a couple welcoming a new baby, someone recently widowed or divorced, or a young person trying to establish themselves in adulthood. It’s quite likely they’re the ones working in one of the many service jobs the North Shore absolutely needs to be functional, but they’ve had it up to here with commuting from the Fraser Valley each day.

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