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16 days ago
On Liking Women | Issue 30 | n+1
Hence the sentiment Solanas expresses through Miss Collins, one of two quick-witted queens who grace the filthy pages of Up Your Ass:

MISS COLLINS: Shall I tell you a secret? I despise men. Oh, why do I have to be one of them? (Brightening.) Do you know what I’d like more than anything in the world to be? A Lesbian. Then I could be the cake and eat it too.
feminism  trans  gender  transgender  terf  lesbianism  lesbian  desire  sex  politics 
6 weeks ago
Housing Policy for Metro Vancouver
Housing Policy for Metro Vancouver

Thomas Davidoff, UBC, thomas.davidoff@sauder.ubc.ca

This version October 28, 2017

The Problem

Many households in Vancouver do not have enough after tax income to rent or buy homes that are as big, as nice, or as conveniently located as they want while leaving as much for other spending and saving as they would like. This can be a matter of considerable discomfort for mobile middle class households, a serious problem for employers, and a crisis for those with limited resources who are committed to remaining in Vancouver.

Why is Vancouver Expensive?

Vancouver is a beautiful and safe place with large immigrant communities, so people will sacrifice wages and housing costs to do the same work here as they would elsewhere. It is difficult to build here because of our mountains, oceans, US border, and strict land use regulations. Because property tax rates are very low in Vancouver, and because supply and demand conditions presage growth in rents over time, the ratio of price to rent is high. As real estate demand becomes global, Vancouver's very low property tax rates as a fraction of property value and growth prospects made it a very attractive place for domestic and international investors before the foreign buyer tax. The impact of that tax on long-run global demand remains to be seen.

How can Government address Vancouver's Affordability Problem

Two areas of policy stand out as creating self-imposed affordability problems:

The Lower Mainland should have high property taxes and low income and sales taxes. Instead we have the opposite.
Single family zoning destroys potential supply. This is a subsidy to affluent buyers from around the world and a tax on the local workforce.
These problems present opportunities. Property owners who do not participate in the local economy can and should contribute far more revenue to government than they currently do. Low-density zoning means that local governments control on the order of $1 trillion worth of supply. Status quo policy releases too little of that supply, provides too little of the financial upside to government, and too much of the benefit too much to developers and land owners.

Raise property taxes, cut income and sales taxes, provide benefits to renters

When supply is limited, an increase in property taxes mostly has the effect of reducing property prices. If governments could coordinate to raise property taxes while cutting income and sales taxes and providing cash grants to renters and those with low incomes:

After-tax incomes would rise, particularly for low-income renters.
Homeowners who do not pay income taxes or buy goods locally would lose. For retired homeowners, this problem can be attenuated with credits and the existing property tax deferral program.
Investing in BC real estate without working in BC would be less attractive.
Property prices would fall.
Empty and vacation home owners would be inclined to sell or lease properties, generating downward pressure on rents.
Rising income for renters would offset some of the supply-induced reduction in rents. Because renters do not spend all of their income on rents, they would be better off than before.
High income homeowners would both win and lose: after-income tax buying power would rise, but property taxes would rise and property value fall.
In sum, shifting the tax base from income and sales to property would provide considerable benefits to people who work in Vancouver but do not yet own property.

Making tax reform fair and politically feasible

49 economists at UBC and Simon Fraser have signed on to the BC Housing Affordability Fund proposal (BCHAF), detailed here and put into a member's bill by MLA David Eby. This proposal increases property taxes, but not on people who have lived in their home a long time or pay significant income tax or are landlords. This program would provide cash that can be used to improve households' after-tax incomes (or fund government expenditures such as affordable housing units). The BCHAF would make greater Vancouver less attractive to investors and more attractive to workers, landlords, and renters.

Vancouver's Empty Homes Tax and Airbnb limitations are similar in spirit to BCHAF: property taxes go up, but not for people who make their homes in Vancouver. Because this would reduce certain types of demand (speculative and vacation), rents would likely fall, rather than rise, making renters strictly better off due to both the revenue and demand effects.

Kill the HOME partnership loan program

HOME partnership loans are extremely risky. I have laid out a detailed argument here. These loans are also conceptually bad because subsidizing demand in a supply-constrained market such as Vancouver's largely serves to raise prices.

Regulate and tax short-term rentals such as Airbnb

Our low property tax, high income and sales tax system favors vacationers relative to full-time residents. Allowing properties that function as hotels to pay little or no tax also distorts property owners' choices in favor of short term rentals. Increasing taxes and fees on short term rentals would encourage full-time short-term rental operators to convert units to rental or to sell to owner-occupiers.

Increase Housing Supply While Capturing Benefits for Renters

Surging home prices have led to significant numbers of housing starts. Many of these are small condo units and there is some question about how these new units contribute to affordability, as many of the new units command strikingly high presale prices. Existing condo prices have surged in the Spring and Summer of 2017.

Holding demand constant, adding more supply must lower prices, at least in the short run. There is a legitimate concern that if nothing is done on the demand side, that there will be virtually infinite global demand for expensive condos around Vancouver. This is not an unreasonable view with respect to the long-run, but probably not correct in the short-run. Either way, the demand-side tax measures described above are an important way to guarantee that new units improve affordability for locals.

Much more supply could be added if local governments relaxed zoning regulations. Some of the best land in the Province is reserved for single family homes that cannot be affordable based on local incomes given the value of the land.

Local governments are reluctant to allow even duplexes or townhomes in single family zones because local homeowners disapprove. Some of the disapproval is warranted, in that more transit is needed to ease congestion.

Enhance and rationalize the trade of looser zoning for cash and in-kind contributions

One way that local governments make new development more palatable is to extract concessions from developers in the form of development cost charges, community amenity contributions, and contribution of affordable or rental-restricted units. While some argue that these mandatory contributions make development less attractive, the obvious bottlenecks are slow approvals and restrictive zoning. If these mandatory contributions make the politics of densification easier, then they both create more housing and provide funds with which governments can enhance affordability. The province can likely help local governments coordinate on the best use of contributions to enhance affordability (likely channeling money to an entitlement for local workers who were not owners as of some date) with the help of the province, and on best practices in delivering approvals while determining developers' and landowners' willingness to pay for upzoning rights.

Previous guidance from the Province regarding trading "zoning for dollars" has been very poor. The guidance to date advises non-transactional fees and opacity, rather than explicit sale of rights. Something close to a spectrum auction would be much better. For example, North Vancouver District could say that they will accept 100 townhomes per year around Montroyal and Highland Boulevards. Property owners could bid for the right to build any of those 100 units, and the city could then accept the 100 highest bids each year. This would leave no "money on the table" and would thus avoid speculative increases in land value when the potential upzoning was announced.

Consider revising the Local Government Act and Vancouver City Charter to reduce "Snob Zoning"

If the Province cannot encourage densification by sweetening the carrot of mandatory contributions, it should consider revising the Local Government Act and the Vancouver City Charter. Currently, municipalities have the power to zone arbitrarily. Zoning that creates single family housing lowers land values and thereby makes single family homes cheaper than they would be otherwise. This is a subsidy to buyers who can afford such homes. However, by reducing housing supply and pushing new homes to suburbs, single family zoning raises prices and rents for more affordable, denser housing types, and encourages sprawl. The induced sprawl and car commuting is bad for the environment. In this way, it is difficult to justify single family zoning as a public good, particularly when imposed on very high quality land. Requiring that zoning rules be in the regional public interest (as opposed to only neighborhood interest) would help.

Reconsider the balance of cash grants versus new affordable units

Presale prices in Vancouver can be as high as $2,000 per square foot. Giving developers rights to build such units through land sales or rezoning is tremendously valuable. Proceeds from selling these rights could provide significant benefits to renters struggling with affordability. A question arises of whether to use the spread between costs and prices to (a) fund cash benefits or (b) create new homes that are dedicated to affordability. Option (b) amounts to holding lotteries for very large prizes: the difference between market and affordability prices. Option (a) would spread the same dollar benefit more equally among… [more]
zoning  vancouver  housing  affordability  bc 
8 weeks ago
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