Bob Rennie Plays the Affordability Blame Game

Handout Image published in Vancouver Sun

Local media was buzzing with reports of Bob Rennie's recent keynote speech, in which he placed the blame for Vancouver's affordability crisis on single-family neighborhoods, while defending his own development interests.

As reported by the Sun's Jeff Lee: In his address to the Urban Development Institute, "Real Estate Guru" Bob Rennie blames local boomers for dearth of housing affordability, while defending offshore investment and playing the racism card. In doing so, Rennie deliberately reinforces the false dichotomy that has epitomized the current civic government's approach to housing affordability.

Over the last year plus I've worked extensively with neighbourhood groups and residents associations from across the city and I've yet to encounter a single family neighbourhood putting up an "anti-densification fight". Rather, the concerns have been over how and for who densification is built, how public benefits are maintained, and the lack of collaboration with the community - all of which are reasonable requests of any resident. The other big concern echoed particularly in the single family neighbourhoods of the West Side is houses being bought, demolished and replaced with larger "monster" homes, to be minimally occupied by affluent non-local investors.

The fact is, some form of densification is necessary for many of Vancouver's single family neighbourhoods if nothing more than to help finance the upgrading of their aging infrastructure (and ideally to provide affordable housing options). The other fact is that positioning Vancouver as a "world-class city" has increased speculative investment in real estate and fueled the growth in non-resident money driving prices up.

In playing the NIMBY card and the race card, Rennie is deliberately suppressing an important conversation that needs to happen. That Rennie profits heavily off development growth and concurrently very publicly finances the ruling Vision Vancouver party should give pause to consider his words with a healthy dose of skepticism.

read the original Sun article: "Metro Vancouver baby boomers sitting on $163 billion of property" - Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, May 16