Comment: Looking for cure to housing problem not a Band-Aid solution

Regarding my opinion piece of June 4 entitled “Property tax idea from a B.C. senior,” there may have been some misconceptions when an explanation of California’s Proposition 13 was introduced into my thoughts.

Despite that, I was pleased to see the heart felt responses from young parents.

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I do agree that the well being of children should be given a higher priority than the aged, for the future is more important than the past.

But the woes that young families and seniors in the Greater Victoria area are experiencing due to ridiculous lot prices are intertwined and stem from the same three base causes.

1. There has been rampant speculation in homes by money launderers, non-resident speculators and local flippers.

The commissions, fees and taxes associated with frequent flipping adds to the costs.

2. A side-effect of B.C.’s 40-year condo boom was that very few new rental apartment buildings were built, and existing ones were converted to condominiums.

3. Governments are actively lobbied to keep “profitable trends” going.

That means rather than addressing the root causes, they tend to cover up the ugliest symptoms with Band-Aids.

Here is a sequence of symptoms that explains how this has ensnared both seniors and young families:

A. Families who need houses in which to live cannot afford to compete with speculators.

B. Some real-estate agents and mortgage companies encourage young buyers to enter a lifetime of debt to buy a modest house on an extremely overpriced lot.

C. With so few “purpose-built rental apartments” being built, there is a dire shortage of rental apartments at every price level in every community.

D. Healthy vacancy rates for rental apartments enable economic and social mobility by enabling people to make changes in their life, whether due to age, health, finances, location, career, training, fresh starts, family dynamics, climate or emergencies. Shortages frustrate people in their efforts to help themselves.

E. When a rental shortage curtails social mobility, the result is social problems, the ugliest of which are covered up with expensive Band-Aid social programs.

F. Due to the shortage, or even absence, of new rental apartments, seniors who should be changing roles from owner to tenant due to age and health, are still stuck owning and living in their family-sized homes. There are programs to help them to cope and stay in those homes, but that does not solve the problem.

G. When seniors are stuck in their family-sized homes, those homes are not available to the families with children for which these homes were designed. This is an important point.

H. The lack of new rental apartments combined with seniors “who are stuck” in their homes creates a situation where families with children are forced to live in basement suites.

I. The rush to build more secondary suites is, at best, another Band-Aid solution. At worst, it is an indication of successful lobbying by the “condo industry” to hide the fact that the cure is more rental apartments.

We are all in this together.

We shouldn’t blame each other for the nasty symptoms of our 20-year-old housing crisis. Instead, we should distinguish between base causes versus symptoms, and between cures versus Band-Aid solutions.

We should demand cures, now.

Steve Bowker is a concerned senior citizen.

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