Wednesday, March 1, 2017

What can municipalities do to reduce homelessness in Metro Vancouver?

Yesterday, I posted about the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s new 12-point homelessness reduction action plan. Reducing the amount of people who are experiencing homelessness will take the help of the provincial and federal governments working in cooperation with local governments and other community organizations.

One of the questions that I get asked regularly is what can municipalities do to reduce homelessness. Based on Metro Vancouver’s new action plan, I want to highlight some of the ways that municipalities can do their part to reduce homelessness.

Local government’s can play a role in advocating to other orders of government to get resources in their community to reduce homelessness. They can also work with other orders of government, non-government and faith-based organizations to make sure that resources are being delivered in the most effective way possible in a community.

An example of this would be the Community Liaison Coordinator position that Langley City council recently approved.

While supportive housing and shelter facilities are generally funded by the provincial and federal governments, and operated by non-government or faith-based organizations in BC, municipalities are responsible for approving any zoning changes required for supportive housing and shelter facilities. Municipalities can also donate land for these facilities and provide a tax-break for the facilities.

A Langley City example is the Gateway of Hope. The City provided zoning approval, leases the land to the Salvation Army, and provides a tax exemption for this facility.

Based on Metro Vancouver’s 12-point plan, the last area that municipalities have direct control over when it comes to reducing homelessness is to ensure that policies are in place to support the creation of affordable housing.

Two of the tools that local governments have available are density bonuses and housing agreements. Density bonuses allow developers to create more units of housing than would normally be allowed in a specific zone, if the developer agrees to build a prescribed number of affordable housing unit.

Density bonuses can also be given to developers that sign onto housing agreements which can be used to ensure that housing units remain affordable. There is a good article at West Coast Environmental Law about housing agreements.

Langley City has an older affordable housing strategy which I’ve posted about previously.

Municipalities certainly have a role to play when it comes to reducing and preventing homelessness, but the heavy lifting must be done by the provincial and federal governments.

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