Assessing the Limitations of the Market Approach to B.C.'s Housing Crisis


Cover of the report is a greenwashed image of an old multi-story building overlooking an underground subway construction site

British Columbia has a cost-of-living crisis, manifesting primarily in out-of-control housing costs. Understanding what is creating the crisis of housing affordability is integral to developing an exit strategy that addresses its root causes. To date, the housing crisis has only deepened despite repeated legislative interventions at all levels of government.

In this report, we provide an overview of British Columbia’s recent legislative efforts to increase housing supply, provide BCGEU’s analysis of these measures and their underlying assumptions, as well as offer an outline of a better way forward that puts the interests of B.C. residents ahead of those profiting the most off of the ongoing crisis.

Recognizing the limited progress made thus far, in the fall of 2023 the provincial government took sweeping steps to induce increased market housing supply while restricting and standardizing the traditional planning role of local governments with respect to urban planning.

While there are positive elements of recent legislation, we believe that these interventions proceed on the basis of questionable assumptions and effectively double down on market-oriented approaches to the housing crisis which have failed so far.

Any solution to the housing crisis must not only address the need for an increase in housing construction, but fundamentally address the financialization of housing by regulating the ability of the market to extract rent from land. Solutions must moderate increases in land values while directly providing affordable housing. Particularly, significant public tax revenues will need be directed into forms of public housing which are secured in perpetuity. 

This is not only a moral argument but a practical one - the affordability benefits achievable through market supply are marginal when compared with the direct public provision of non-market housing. These observations are at the core of the BCGEU’s Affordable BC campaign, which calls for reinvestment in public housing, inclusionary zoning, land value taxation, and vacancy control.

Click here to download a PDF of the full report.