Opinion Column

Homelessness follows house prices

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

Homeless count volunteers gather information from homeless people on the streets of New Westminster, B.C. on March 8, 2017. (Jason Payne/Postmedia)

Homeless count volunteers gather information from homeless people on the streets of New Westminster, B.C. on March 8, 2017. (Jason Payne/Postmedia)

There are 199 homeless children and more than 3,500 homeless people in the regional district of Metro Vancouver. That’s a 30 per cent overall increase from 2014. While the city of Vancouver itself say a 19 per cent increase, homelessness in Langley increased by 124 per cent, in Delta and White Rock, 142 per cent.

These numbers make it clear that homelessness is not just a Vancouver issue. The statistics released this week show that the homeless population in regions surrounding Vancouver is growing more quickly and that rise has been more dramatic the further you get away from the city. Is it a coincidence that this rise has followed the wave of rising house prices through Richmond, Surrey, Delta and the Fraser Valley?

While housing in the city of Vancouver itself has long been out of reach for most middle class families, over the past three years surrounding areas like Burnaby and New Westminster have pushed the boundaries of affordability. The median single-detached home price in Burnaby hit $1 million back in 2014, and the MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark price for residential detached properties in Metro Vancouver is $1,489,400.

The only region in Metro Vancouver that saw a decrease in homelessness over the past three years is the North Shore, which saw a 16 per cent decrease. Interestingly, the North Shore is also home to one of Canada’s richest postal codes.

When Mayor Gregor Robertson told city council on Tuesday that, "Clearly, a lot more support is required from provincial and federal governments," he was right. We need to study the issue a lot more frequently than every three years and look more closely at the correlation between house prices and homelessness because both waves seem to be moving in the same direction. Smaller cities like Langley are not prepared for the spike in homelessness. Let’s try to learn from the North Shore and see if we can get ahead of this wave. Maybe providing support from those on the verge of being priced out and losing their homes is a good place to start. And we need to start doing something, because 199 homeless children is just unacceptable.