More than 150 people gathered at the Laurel Packing House in Kelowna, Wednesday, to hear the latest findings on real estate in the Okanagan from HM Commercial Group.
The event focused on housing affordability for all British Columbians, with Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the B.C. Liberal Party and Andrey Pavlov, from the Beedee School of Business at Simon Fraser University, as keynote speakers.
According to Pavlov, the issue surrounding affordable housing is a lack of supply, caused by government regulation.
“Most recently the speculation and vacancy tax is playing a major role in reducing supply because it makes it harder for developers to make the economics work,” explained Pavlov. “All the taxes and government intervention may help in the short term but over the long run we still have population growth and people wanting to come here (B.C.), if we don’t build more we are only going to worsen affordability going forward.”
Wilkinson agreed that the speculation and vacancy tax penalizes developers more than it assists.
“What we have said is get a real speculation tax, get rid of this phoney one, and put one (a tax) on those who flip contracts and condos, that is a real speculation tax,” argued the Liberal leader.
Both, Pavlov and Wilkinson noted B.C. continues see an increase in population which is not something that is going to slow down anytime soon.
“About 50,000 to 60,000 people move to B.C. every year and establish themselves,” said Wilkinson. “We need to create more housing and the private sector needs to build it and our municipalities need to plan for it. In some cases that means bigger buildings and more density.”
Wilkinson said the B.C. Liberals are in favour of the private sector playing a role to help improve housing affordability.
“We cannot have the government trying to house a million people, the NDP may think that way but it’s never going to work.”
Pavlov also said he believes that the government should step back and remove restrictions on the supply of housing so private developers can step in.
“The prices of houses are high because we don’t build enough, so the solution is to build a lot,” he explained. “Even if we build luxury apartments and houses, that is fine because we are increasing supply and this will mean prices will fall or at least not increase.”