This has all the makings of a very rocky ride for Surrey and its neighbourhoods as land prices soar, costly infrastructure needs replacing, and more students enrol in our already overcrowded schools: Councillor Linda Annis
SURREY, B.C. (November 8, 2023): Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis says the provincial government’s “well-intentioned” plans to increase the housing supply by allowing up to six homes on a single lot, will trigger unprecedented growth that stresses existing infrastructure, puts even more students into overcrowded schools, and drives up land values – which flies in the face of creating “affordable” housing.
“There isn’t a single existing neighbourhood in Surrey that can cope with four or six homes on one lot without major improvements to infrastructure such as sewer and water,” noted Annis. “At the same time, our schools are already overcrowded with more than twice the number of new students showing up in September than originally planned. Then, add in how much land prices will soar when a homeowner realizes just how much their property is worth if four or six homes can be built on that current single-family lot. When you add up all those costs, how can anyone say housing will be more affordable? Rather than one expensive home on a single-family lot, this change means we would have up to six expensive homes on one lot.”
Annis said the issue will cause costly problems for land assembly along the new Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route where the price of land will soar because of the new rules, increasing the cost of condo units in potential towers.
“Everyone wants more housing, but you can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly you have affordable housing,” explained Annis. “The practical implementation of the new rules that allow up to six homes on one lot will forever change existing neighbourhoods, and the potential for affordable new homes goes out the window when you add in the overnight increase in land values, and the cost of building the proper infrastructure for all these new homes. All of those new costs will make affordable housing virtually impossible.”
Annis said that 1300 new students were predicted for Surrey schools this year, but the actual number was more than 3000, resulting in even more overcrowding and portables.
“In Surrey, we are not keeping up with the growth we already have. Imagine if we have an extra 20,000 students, which isn’t that far-fetched under the new housing rules,” explained Annis. “The province is building new schools, but not enough and not fast enough. As a result, we are falling further and further behind rather than catching up. These new housing rules will only add more stress to a system that’s hardly coping as it is.”
Annis said Surrey and other cities need to have frank conversations with government about the consequences of the new housing rules.
“The provincial government has made the change, so it should be up to the province to explain how the new rules will create genuinely affordable housing, and who is paying for all the required infrastructure,” said Annis. “The province calls their plan gentle growth, but when you get down to the actual details and costs, it will be anything but gentle for cities like Surrey. Is the province coming to the table to build more infrastructure, schools, parks, playgrounds and pools, or added transit? The unintended consequences of putting six homes on one lot need to be understood and costed, not just in terms of finances, but what it does to neighbourhoods from a community perspective. The province cannot change the rules, then abandon cities to fix things after the fact. If this is going to work, we all need to be at the table to deal with these very real issues.”