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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housing trends and the role of public policy in generating homelessness : a case study of Vancouver, British Columbia Gilbert, Leslie J.


This thesis analyses the extent to which municipal and provincial policy decisions over the past decade have contributed to the problem of homelessness. It examines a series of public policy actions and inactions which have resulted in losses of rental housing at the bottom end of market, ultimately leading to displacement and homelessness. The irony is that homelessness is increasing both in magnitude and visibility during a period of relative economic prosperity. The thesis addresses four research questions: 1) What are the causes of homelessness in Canada? 2) Why has the private rental sector failed to shelter people at the bottom rung? 3) In what ways have public policy decisions contributed to or alleviated homelessness, using a case study of Vancouver? 4) How can governments better meet the permanent shelter needs of the homeless population? These research questions are examined by reviewing relevant literature and interviewing key informants in three substantive theme areas, including security of tenure, affordability, and preserving the physical condition of rental housing. The research clearly demonstrates that at both the municipal and provincial levels, policy decisions favour the owners of private property over renters and policy makers are reluctant to interfere with free market principles. Both levels of government adhere to a neo-classical economic approach to the provision of housing, contending that when housing at the high end of market is added to the rental inventory, low-income people will benefit in the long term. This is not occurring in British Columbia. This study suggests that there is a range of policy options governments can employ which will intervene in the private market and remedy the inequalities of housing scarcity.

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