This Renewable Cities’ roundtable discussion paper aims to catalyze policy and planning discourse amongst diverse stakeholders to accelerate action on three critical priorities: affordability, climate change and economic development. This unique synergy emerges out of strategically located, underutilized public land parcels to catalyze a major construction agenda with two purposes:
- Build 10s of 1000s of affordable housing units with other complementary uses that support neighbourhood vitality.
- Build a pipeline of hundreds of large construction projects that instils investor confidence in capitalizing high-tech, offsite building manufacturing, creating secure jobs in big cities, forest product towns and Indigenous communities while easing labour constraints.
This preliminary assessment has identified over 4,000 public land parcels across B.C., most of which have developable land. Coarse analysis conservatively estimates more than 500 project sites are strategically located and developable with potential for building 50,000 affordable housing units close to jobs, services and transit, cutting transportation costs, carbon and congestion.
With a concerted effort and strong policy alignment, this initiative could be scaled over a decade, delivering the equivalent of approximately 20% of projected new multi-family units, approximately 245,000 units under current construction rates. Under the right conditions, growth in offsite manufacturing in and outside this initiative, with its potential to accelerate construction, and provide secure jobs while easing labour constraints, most of these housing units could be in addition to, not simply a share of this projection.
While much deeper discussion is needed on all financial dimensions, this initiative is ballparked into $10-$20 billion territory. To understand the business case given ostensibly “free” public land, if units were rented at half current Metro Vancouver rates and below the B.C. average, it is not inconceivable that with a good financial model, rental revenue could theoretically amortize investment over typical mortgage horizons. To meet the needs of many households, it would be necessary to deliver a share of units at lower rates.
Affordability, forest products job security, Indigenous economic and social reconciliation, climate action, easing construction sector labour constraints––the Government of B.C. has identified all of these priorities is making some policy progress. Many local governments and private and social sector players are also driving innovation across these spaces–much of which is unparalleled across North America. The dial, however, is not being turned fast enough or far enough. Value Added Housing Hubs is an initiative where these priorities converge. Together, the dial could be turned from innovation to market transformation.