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Housing Unaffordability Significantly Impacting Employers

January 22, 2019


Employers in Richmond are reporting rising stress due to the city’s high cost of housing and its impact on their ability to recruit and keep workers.

In a recent member survey conducted by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, 87% of business owners who track such data said that housing affordability has moderately or significantly impacted their ability to recruit talented workers. This recent survey is an update to a 2016 Housing Affordability survey, in which only 62% of employers reported that housing affordability was having an impact.

“This is a very concerning jump,” said Barbara Tinson, Chair of the Richmond Chamber. “To have a 25% increase of employers who are feeling squeezed by housing in just two and a half years, you have to sit up and take notice.”

Even as the housing market has softened in recent months, the median price for all Richmond residential real estate is still $793, 000.

The December 2018 survey also showed that 76% of employers who track such data are now struggling to retain talented employees due to housing affordability, a 16% increase from 2016.

Grant Bryan, co-owner of O’Hare’s Gastropub & Liquor Store on Steveston Hwy said,

“As a direct result of the increasing cost of housing in Richmond and the shrinking pool of available rentals, we have lost a number of long-term staff, who have been forced to live out of the Richmond area, despite our increasing wages to try and keep pace.  The lack of high speed transit and lengthy commute times, primarily due to the Massey tunnel chaos, has made the commute virtually impossible for many. This is causing a recruitment crisis for a family business like ours.”

Larger employers are feeling the pinch too, with John Nagy of the Reid Hurst Nagy CPA firm saying, “RHN has 40 employees and partners in Richmond. Our staff are educated individuals, most with university degrees and many with professional designations. They are well paid. Yet only 7 live in Richmond. When we are recruiting – the quality of our culture, the work environment, and the overall compensation package – have to outweigh the traffic issues they will encounter having to cross the river on a bridge or in a tunnel.”

A new question added to the 2018 survey asked respondents how well they felt the municipal, provincial and federal governments were addressing the issue of affordable housing. Despite new provincial taxes and federal demand-side measures, a strong majority of respondents felt that all three levels of government were responding poorly to this issue.

“We believe that all three levels of government must work in collaboration to bring a diversity of new and affordable housing options to the market on the fastest timeline possible.  But the most immediate action can be taken at the municipal level,” said Tinson. “We must drastically improve not only the processing time, but the certainty of the development application process.  And we urgently need to create more diverse housing options in Richmond.”

“Furthermore, none of this matters if we cannot move goods and people in and out of Richmond. Improved employee hiring and retention begins with the immediate redevelopment of the George Massey Corridor, used by tens of thousands of employees who commute daily to Richmond.”


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