Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Housing Agreements - Creating and Maintaining Affordable Housing

While the conversation around affordable housing has subsided over the last few months, it is still one of the top issues that needs to be addressed in our region.

I have posted about the various ways that local governments such as Langley City can help support increasing the number of affordable housing units. Affordable housing is a continuum of housing options.

Emergency shelters, supportive housing for people with complex needs, independent social housing, and rental assistance needs provincial and federal government on-going funding.

Below market rate rentals, market rentals, and affordable home ownership can be created with the help of local governments through the development process.

As part of a development project, local governments can require affordable housing options be created in exchange for allowing a developer to increase the number of housing units beyond what would normally be allowed. This is called inclusionary zoning or density bonusing.

This is all well and good, but how do you ensure that these housing options stay affordable over the long-term? This is where housing agreements come into play.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released a new guide for municipalities in our region called, “What Works: Securing Affordable and Special Needs Housing through Housing Agreements.

Housing agreements can cover:

  • Groups or persons permitted within housing units (e.g. seniors, low income households, or a mix of tenants)
  • Type of tenure (rent or ownership)
  • Rent rates
  • Price restrictions (upon re-sale)
  • Administration or management requirements

A housing agreement is made between a local government and property owner. Once an agreement is in place, it remains attached to the property even if the property changes ownership. The only way a housing agreement can be terminated is by a local government’s council.

One of the challenges with housing agreements is that they require on-going monitoring, and in some cases enforcement, as some people will not follow housing agreement terms.

Local governments must have the staffing to be able to monitor and enforce housing agreements. One of the ways to help minimize compliance costs is to empower people who live in housing covered by housing agreements.

“It is important to take steps to ensure that tenants are aware of the basic terms of the Housing Agreement that may impact them, and that there are avenues for tenants to issue a complaint if they notice property managers or neighbours contravening a Housing Agreement. This enables tenants to act as ambassadors of the agreement… Local governments can take a more proactive approach by distributing [information about housing agreements] directly to tenants and posting approved Housing Agreements publicly.”

A housing agreement is a powerful tool. In Langley City, we will be requiring a housing agreement as part of the Langley Lions Housing Society redevelopment project.

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