Editorial: Affordability will drive votes

Candidates need to get people to the polls, and raising issues around affordable housing is one way

City council byelection candidates need to be able to get people to the polls, and raising issues around affordable housing might be one way to do it.

It’s a topic that candidates must be hearing about on the hustings, because it was one they were keen to raise at the first all-candidates meeting Tuesday night.

There was general acknowledgement at the meeting that rental costs in Nanaimo are approaching unsustainable levels, if they aren’t already there. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as rents that are 30 per cent of income or below, and too many Nanaimo residents are budgeting half their paycheques for rent.

Candidates have a lot of different notions for tackling this particular challenge. Some wish to talk about it further, while others feel it’s time for action. There’s agreement about advocating for more help from higher levels of government.

A difficulty that arises when we start talking about affordable housing is that even though the CMHC defines it one way, affordability can have different meanings to different people and the issue can get confused and overlapped with other types of housing and homelessness challenges. Some candidates at Tuesday’s meeting drew a distinction; for others the distinction wasn’t as important because of those different perceptions about what’s affordable.

While our city council byelection candidates – and any of us, for that matter – might have ideas about the type of housing that will best address the affordability problem in our community, it’s not always the city’s call. A municipality isn’t in the business of real estate development, strictly speaking. City council can massage projects, but it can’t exactly dictate construction of the types of complexes we want and need.

Byelection candidates want a better Nanaimo and envision different routes to get there. Affordable housing is just the sort of cost-of-living concern likely to be on voters’ minds at the polls.

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