Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New housing needs report will help municipalities align zoning and better advocate for affordable housing for all

If you live in British Columbia, you are keenly aware that we are in a housing crisis. The housing crises might be the most keenly felt in Metro Vancouver where the price of housing whether apartment, townhouse, or detached house has skyrocketed. Even with the current damping of housing prices in our region, home ownership remaining unaffordable and unavailable for many people.

MLS Home Price Index Benchmark Prices for the Fraser Valley. Source: Fraser Valley Real Estate Board

The rental market has also seen prices escalated due to extremely low vacancy rates caused by a limited supply of new purpose-built rental units.

While the federal and provincial governments are now just starting to catch up, there was a multi-decade long under-investment in subsidized housing, specialized housing for people with physical and mental disabilities, and housing for people dealing with addiction.

In order to advocate for housing that meets the needs of all British Columbians, local governments need to know where there are gaps in the types of housing required within their community.

To help municipalities and regional districts, the provincial government enacted legislation last year to require that local governments complete housing needs reports. The specifics of what must be included in these reports was released this spring. The provincial government also provided funding to help local governments complete these reports.

Local governments must complete their first housing needs reports by April 2022, then update the reports every five years.

At at least 50 unique points of data must be incorporated into a housing needs report.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District already has expertise collecting demographic and housing data on our region. As the regional district is a federation of local governments, the district will be preparing the approximately 50 unique points of data for each local government within Metro Vancouver. This will save both time and money when creating the 20+ housing needs reports for municipalities in our region.

Local governments like Langley City would use the data from the Metro Vancouver Regional District to prepare their own housing needs report. The report must include:

  • Statements about key areas of local need, including affordable housing, rental housing, special needs housing, seniors housing, family housing, and shelters and housing for people at risk of homelessness
  • The number of housing units required to meet current and anticipated housing needs for at least the next five years, by housing type. Housing ‘type’ is defined as dwelling size (number of bedrooms)
  • The number and percentage of households in core housing need and extreme core housing need

These reports are required to be publicly available, and their content needs to be consider whenever there is an update to an official community plan (zoning) or regional growth strategy.

These reports will provide the information local governments need to advocate to the provincial and federal governments for funding to build subsidized and special needs housing.

It will also help keep local governments honest about the link between zoning and housing required in their community. If the housing needs report says a community needs 1-bedroom rental units, but current zoning only permits single-family housing, hopefully local governments will update their zoning to encourage 1-bedroom rental units.

I look forward to the development and release of Langley City’s housing needs report.

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