Monday, September 9, 2019

Metro Vancouver Regional District looking to build 500 new units of affordable housing

Metro Vancouver Housing - Sutton Place. Image source: Metro Vancouver Regional District

This weekend, I was at the Triple A Senior Housing Society’s HOPE4HOMES conference. This conference focused on what can be done to make life more affordable for seniors in Langley. Housing is a critical component when it comes to affordability. When people pay more than 30% of their income towards housing, they are living in unaffordable housing.

Seniors in our community who rent are the most vulnerable when it comes to the increasing cost of housing. They are on fixed incomes that are not keeping up with ever-increasing rents. At the conference, I learned that some 3,000 seniors live in unaffordable housing in Langley. Two-thirds of those seniors live in the Township of Langley.

The current federal government and provincial government have committed billions of dollars over the next decade for new purposed-built affordable housing. In BC, the commitment is to build 114,000 new units of affordable housing over the next decade.

The federal and provincial governments are not building this affordable housing, they are providing the funding. They are looking for non-profit housing societies and local governments to build and operate these new affordable housing units.

In Langley, there are around 250 new units of affordable housing being built and operated by non-profit housing societies that is funded through the provincial government. While this is a good start, if we have 3,000 seniors today that need affordable housing (and thousand of younger people who also need affordable housing), we need to be building affordable housing at a larger scale.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is a federation of municipalities from Langley to Bowen Island. As a collection of municipalities, we have a long history of working together to tackle big challenges.

The regional district provides affordable housing for some 9,000 people today in 49 sites throughout Metro Vancouver. This housing was originally built in the 1970s and 1980s with the support of the federal government. The feds got out of funding new affordable housing in the 1990s until a few years ago. This is one of the reasons why we have a housing crisis today.

With the renewed interest from the feds and province to building affordable housing, it is time that our region gets serious about building affordable housing at scale.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is looking to collect $4 million per year in new property taxes throughout the region to build at least 500 new units of affordable housing over the next decade. This money will be combined with significant federal and provincial funding, and land donated by municipalities. It is expected that 70% of these units would be low end of market rental, and 30% rent geared to income to ensure affordability.

This $4 million per year would translate to an additional $4 per year in property tax per household in our region.

If this program is successful in the first few years, I hope that the region scales it up because we need to be building thousands of units of affordable housing per year in our region.

I should note that the type of affordable housing in this post is not supportive housing for people transitioning out of homelessness, or who have complex needs. This type of housing with wrap-around services is being handled by other programs.

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