Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Langley City (sort of) the most affordable community in the Lower Mainland

Vancity recently released a new report called “Home Stretch: Comparing housing affordability in B.C.’s hottest markets.” The report looked at housing affordability in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and the Capital Regional (Victoria).

Langley City made the top of the list as the most affordable community based on median housing price of all three regions, but this might not be a fair metric.

Langley City is 10 square kilometres, and is in redevelopment mode. The north half of our community has been zoned for higher-density housing such as apartments, row houses, and townhouses for some time. Between 2001 and 2016, the number of single-family households has shrunk from 3,115 to 2,740. The amount of households living in townhouses, row houses, and apartments has increased from 6,980 to 9,095. As of 2016, only 23% of Langley City households live in single-family housing. For more information, please read my previous post of the topic.

Because such a high percentage of our housing stock is apartments, it lowers the median price dramatically. A look at Appendix 1 of the Vancity report tells a slightly different story. This appendix breaks out housing based on type: appartments, attached (townhouses/row houses), and detached.

Median price of apartments in Lower Mainland and Capital Region, 2016-2017. Select chart to enlarge.

Median price of attached housing in Lower Mainland and Capital Region, 2016-2017. Select chart to enlarge.

Median price of detached housing in Lower Mainland and Capital Region, 2016-2017. Select chart to enlarge.

In February 2017, Langley City had the least costly attached and apartment housing prices in Metro Vancouver. Other communities in the Fraser Valley and Capital Region had lower prices. Langley City had the second least-costly detached housing prices in Metro Vancouver.

The Vancity report uses “Gross Debt Service Ratio” to determine affordability based on the median income of each region, not each community. Langley City has the lowest household income levels in Metro Vancouver outside of Electoral Area A. For people who live in Langley City, housing is actually less affordable than the Vancity report would indicate.

Langley City staff and council have worked hard to ensure that we are doing our part to facilitate higher-density redevelopment. Our community has the fastest processing time in Metro Vancouver for new housing projects. We have also zoned for higher-density housing. From the municipal end, we are doing our part to enable new housing supply, but affordability in our community is still slipping as noted in the Vancity report.

Other communities in our region may need to evaluate their processing time and zoning to ensure the construction of more townhouses, row houses, and apartments, but that is only one part of the affordable housing story. As suggested in the Vancity report, the provincial and federal governments need to invest in programs such as building more co-op housing to provide long-lasting affordable housing for people at all income levels in Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and the Capital Region.

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