Housing Paradigm Shift
It’s a given that in a growing, economically prosperous city, inflation and housing prices follow an upward trajectory leaving many without the means to live in the most desirable areas. This trend is a fact of life in major cities around the world where residents with modest means are forced to commute long distances, increasing pressure on transportation systems and the environment. In many cases, the most desirable homes are bought up by real estate investors, turning housing into a commodity and artificially inflating property values while leaving these prime spaces empty.
There is one country that is bucking the trend in a very radical way, maintaining affordability through intervention. Germany pays close attention to housing and takes an active role in keeping it affordable, resulting in a 10% inflation-adjusted drop in residential real estate prices compared to 30 years ago. How is this possible when the German economy is one of the most robust in the world? The key is that the municipalities keep a close purview over housing stock and only release land for development to meet the current demand. The stockpiling of land is also prevented through this real estate model, smoothing out the boom and bust cycles.
Elsewhere in the world it may not be as politically or financially viable to take such interventionist steps. In such cases, alternative efforts to address housing shortages and to improve inclusivity are being explored, spearheaded by governments, developers and architects collaborating together to create solutions. Toronto’s Regent Park Revitalization and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan are positive steps towards delivering housing to a diverse range of incomes while mitigating the effects of gentrification. It remains to be seen how these proposals will affect inner-city transitional neighbourhoods, but it is clear that a paradigm shift is underway to make housing accessibility a priority.
What do you think can be done to ensure all city residents enjoy the benefits of proximity to places of work, recreation and housing?
Regent Park is making new waves, Toronto Star, Feb 14, 2014
Vancouver reveals $1-billion pan for Downtown Eastside revival, Sunny Dhillon, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 27, 2014
City of Vancouver approves Downtown Eastside community plan, Global News, Mar. 15, 2014
[Top Image: Shabbar Raza]