Parting Shot: Let’s look to canny Canucks on housing


Gee those Canadians are smart. Just look at what they’ve given the world - ice hockey, insulin and paint rollers.

That’s not to mention maple syrup (I don’t care who invented it, the Canadian stuff’s great) and rubber-faced actor Jim Carrey.

And, boy, they know how to run a flag referendum.

Generally, they’re pretty good folks, too.

A Kiwi abroad can usually find a friend in a Canadian - not least because of their big brother-little brother relationship with their neighbours.

(Although, really, when are they going to get their own international dialling code?)

It was during a conversation with a Canadian this week that I realised they’ve got a lot to offer Queenstown.

The topic du jour was housing.

She reckons Queenstown’s council is “retro active”. That’s a huge insult - imagine being compared to an average Def Leppard album from 1993!

She quickly clarified the council is slow-moving and seems to react rather then getting ahead of the housing crisis.

I’ve been troubled by a recent conversation with a local businessman who reckons building the Five Mile retail centre was a mistake. The town’s flooded with low-wage jobs, drawing people who presumably can’t afford to live here.

But my Canadian friend assures there are ways around it.

First off, the British Columbia government restricts rent hikes.

I checked it out. It’s true.

The government’s website says “landlords can only increase the rent once a year by an amount permitted by law or an additional amount approved in advance by an arbitrator - they need to use the right form and give the tenant three full months’ notice of the rent increase”.

For 2016, that maximum allowable rent hike is 2.9 per cent.

It does change. In 2012, for example it was 4.3 per cent. The year before it was 2.3 per cent. But you get the picture. If you’re an existing tenant your landlord can’t just give you notice your rent is going up by $200 a week.

Then my Canadian friend talked about Vancouver’s incentives to boost flat-building.

Tick - true again.

According to the Vancouver Sun, the city offered developers breaks on development costs, relaxed parking requirements and extra density if they built rentals.

Oer four years, nearly 4000 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom rental units were built, the most of any major Canadian city (although they were short of three-bedroom units).

Researching on the internet later that night I discovered something called the Whistler Housing Authority.

It’s a council-owned body - in a ski resort!! - which develops, administers and manages “resident restricted housing”.

Its goal is to house at least 75 per cent of employees locally and its website boasts 1900 units of affordable rental and ownership housing.

Oh Canada!

My new maple-leaf-flag-waving friend loves it in Queenstown and doesn’t think rents are criminal.

But she’s aghast at the growing gap between rents and wages.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as costing “less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income”. Those costs include rent, electricity, fuel, water and other council services.

Crunch that percentage and you might be surprised what you’re spending.

You could argue Queenstown’s council isn’t a complete laggard. Developments are being fast-tracked through special housing areas, and they’re considering rates relief for residential flats and hiking rates for farmers on residential-zoned land.

But my Canadian friend thinks - and I agree - they’re responding now because we’ve reached crisis point.

Anyone heading to town this winter better pack a polar-strength tent.

Now, if only we could cobble together some public money and send our best and brightest to Canada to find solutions to our housing mess. There’s an idea.