Monday, March 1, 2021

Langley City’s Housing Needs Report: More affordable rental units and townhouses are needed

Recently, the provincial government started requiring local governments to produce Housing Needs Reports. These reports must be updated every five years and identify current and future housing needs in a community. Local governments should use the information in these reports to update Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategies.

Langley City Council received its first Housing Needs Report last Monday.

The report identifies several challenges and gaps in housing within Langley City. Affordability across the housing continuum from supportive housing and below-market rental to market rental and ownership remains a concern.

There is not enough supportive housing and other forms of subsidized housing available in Langley City to meet the demand now and into the future. In the next five years, about one-third of Langley City households will not have affordable housing options. Affordability means that a household must not spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Projected Affordability by Income Segment, Housing Type, and Housing Tenure in 2024. Select table to enlarge.

You would need to make $182,000 to buy a single-family home in Langley City in 2024. This income requirement restricts single-family homeownership to about 10% of the population of Langley City.

More encouraging is that you would need to have a household income of $92,460 to own a townhome or rowhouse in Langley City by 2024. About 41% of the population of Langley City can afford to own a townhome or rowhouse.

The affordable housing crisis is why Langley City’s draft new Official Community Plan proposes introducing townhomes and rowhouses along the 200th Street and 208th Street corridors. We need to ensure that our community remains an affordable place for people to raise a family.

Langley City also needs to encourage more affordable market rental options in our community, including allowing people to age-in-place. The number of adaptable and accessible housing units must increase.

Langley City’s draft new Official Community Plan encourages more purpose-built rental. It also includes a one-for-one rental unit replacement policy to ensure that we do not reduce the number of rental units in a neighbourhood. It also contains a robust tenant relocation policy to ensure that a developer must treat people fairly during a permanent relocation process.

Overall, the Housing Needs Report identified that more 1-bedroom and 3+ bedroom units are needed in Langley City over the next five years.

For more information, please read the full House Needs Report.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

February 22 Council Meeting: New Development, Poverty Reduction, Community Grants Awarded

From mid-January to mid-February, Langley City hosted a virtual event called “Celebrating Arts & Culture.” Kim Hilton, the Director of Recreation, Culture & Community Services, presented statistics to City Council about the event’s success. There were 743 unique views of the virtual gallery.

On Monday afternoon, Council approved a bylaw to enable the development of a 5-storey, 18-unit apartment at 20172 53A Avenue. Council also approved issuing a development permit. I confirmed with City staff that the City will be adding an on-street loading zone for the apartment.

Council approved applying for the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action grant. Township of Langley Council approved applying for this grant as well. UBCM could award the Township and City a total of $50,000 to create a joint Poverty Reduction Strategy for Langley.

Council also awarded $114,076.29 in Community Grants as follows:

Recipient Amount
Bard in the Valley $14948.19
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley $4000.00
Boys and Girls Club of Langley $3000.00
Children of the Street Society – PLEA Community Services $1000.00
DLBA – Arts Alive Festival $10000.00
Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) $2000.00
Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards $1000.00
HD Stafford Middle School PAC $3500.00
KidsSport Langley $2500.00
Langley 4H District Council $150.00
Langley Amateur Radio Association $800.00
Langley Animal Protection Society $5000.00
Langley Care Foundation – Langley Lodge $2500.00
Langley Children’s Committee $2000.00
Langley Flippers Swim Club $2100.00
Langley Food Bank $4168.00
Langley Fundamental Dry Grad $500.00
Langley Lawn Bowling Club $2000.00
Langley Literacy Association $2500.00
Langley Meals on Wheels $5000.00
Langley Mustangs Track Club $4737.50
Langley Pos-Abilities Society $2500.00
Langley Rotary Clubs – RibFest Langley $2500.00
Langley Scholarship Committee $4500.00
Langley Senior Resources Society $15000.00
Langley Volunteer Bureau $1250.00
Lower Fraser Valley Aboriginal Society $3500.00
Pitch-In Canada $425.00
Silver Diamond Country Dancers Association $1000.00
Valley Therapeutic Equestrian Association $3497.60
Vancouver Youth Arts – Formerly KPU International Music Fest $5500.00
Youth Parliament $1000.00

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Council approves 2021 budget, moves forward with $7.5 million investment plan to support SkyTrain.

On Monday afternoon, Langley City council approved the 2021-25 Financial Plan. Langley City’s operating budget is $48.3 million, while the capital budget is $18.8 million. The capital budget funds projects such as upgrading water/sewer lines and renewing parks. As part of this year’s capital budget, council also allocated $7.5 million for strategic property acquisition.

A combination of property tax, developer contributions, casino revenue, and grants from TransLink, the province, and the federal government funds the capital budget. In BC, municipalities can also use debt to fund capital projects.

In 2020, council was ready to kick off the $50 million Nexus of Community Plan. This 5-year plan was to be funded by a loan. The City would invest $31 million for strategic property acquisition to support SkyTrain and facilitate redevelopment to maximize value for residents and businesses.

COVID-19 hit as this investment plan was working its way through the approval process. Council decided to put this plan on pause. This year, council is proposing to moving forward with a scaled-back $7.5 million strategic property acquisition plan to support SkyTrain to Langley.

Council is proposing to fund this scale-back plan with a 15-year loan. The repayment of this loan required a one-time 1.93% increase in property tax this year. No further increases in property tax to support this loan are required.

As per BC law, council will be going through an Alternative Approval Process for the loan. During this process, a person eligible to vote in a local election will have an opportunity to express support or opposition to the $7.5 million loan. If an eligible voter supports the loan, they do not need to take action. If they are opposed to the loan, they must complete an Elector Response Form. This form will be available at Timms Community Centre and on the City’s website. A completed form can be dropped off or emailed to the City. If 10% of eligible voters oppose the loan, it will have to go to a binding city-wide referendum.

The Alternative Approval Process has strict guidelines, including advertising and the Elector Response Form submission timelines. All eligible voters will have the time and opportunity to participate.

Council formally rescinded the $50 million Nexus of Community Investment Plan and approved the $7.5 million Investment Plan on Monday. The provincial Inspector of Municipalities must now approve this $7.5 million plan. If approved, the Alternative Approval Process will begin.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Fraser Health looking to locate an Overdose Prevention Site in Langley

Yesterday afternoon, Fraser Health staff presented some sombre statistics to Langley City council on overdose deaths in BC and our community. Since 2015, the number of people dying due to the increased toxicity of illicit drugs has grown exponentially. In 2019, the number of people dying decreased for the first time. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused 2020 to see the highest number of deaths due to drug overdoses. Fraser Health staff stated an interruption of health services and change in the mix of illicit drugs available due to the pandemic caused an increase in deaths.

Around 1,700 people in BC died due to illicit drug overdoses in 2020. In Langley City and Township, 77 people died. As a comparison to-date, about 1,300 people died in BC due to COVID-19.

Overdose deaths in BC 1994 to 2020. Select image to enlarge.

Overdose deaths in Langley 2019 and 2020. Select image to enlarge.

In the Fraser Health region, around 70% of overdose deaths occur in private residences, 16% in other indoor locations such as restaurants, and 13% outside.

As a result, Fraser Health is looking to partner with a service provider to open an Overdose Prevention Site in Langley. Staff from Fraser Health stated that they wanted to place the site in a part of Langley with a high drug overdose death rate.

An Overdose Prevention Site and a Supervised Consumption Site provide the same services. The difference being that an Overdose Prevention Site is provincially regulated while a Supervised Consumption Site is federally regulated.

Overdose Prevention Site services include:

  • Distribution of supplies for safer injection
  • Education on safe injection technique and infection prevention
  • Overdose prevention and intervention
  • Medical and counselling services
  • Referrals to substance use treatment
  • Connection to housing and other support services
  • Drug-checking

Several council members expressed concern about placing an Overdose Prevention Site in Langley City, noting that it could cause a negative impact on the surrounding neighbourhood. Some members of council also asked Fraser Health if they would consider mobile overdose prevention services. Council asked many questions about Overdose Prevention Sites to Fraser Health staff, who agreed to get back to council with answers.

At the council meeting, I told a personal story about my father’s use of illicit drugs and later abuse of prescription medication. I stated that he got help at a methadone clinic which helped save him and our family.

I talked about my experience working at a TV station and software company located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I stated that I’d seen firsthand the positive impacts that a Supervised Consumption Site can have in a neighbourhood, such as reducing people using drugs around businesses.

I asked Fraser Health that if they placed an Overdose Prevention Site in Langley City, they do it in a way that uplifts its clients and surrounding neighbourhood. I also asked that they design the site so that someone like my dad would feel comfortable assessing it.

I know firsthand that there is a lot of shame around drug addiction. Many people don’t want to be seen going into a street-front Overdose Prevention Site. When my dad accessed methadone treatment, he did so at a second-floor clinic.

I told Fraser Health staff that Langley City’s draft Official Community Plan encourages active-uses for ground-floor commercial unit. Active-uses include retail shops, restaurants, and cafes. The Offical Community Plan encourages personal services and offices in second-floor or higher units.

I asked Fraser Health staff to work with the City if they decide to open an Overdose Prevention Site in our community. The design and location of an Overdose Prevention Site are essential. The right design and location will help reduce the fear of accessing it and provide a dignified experience for clients. It can uplift the surrounding neighbourhood and support the City’s goal of creating an active retail core with a good design and location.