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Affordable housing in Vancouver to be linked to income

Last Updated Mar 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm PDT

House document with keys and pen (iStock)

Affordable housing reset: City Hall

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The City of Vancouver‘s new affordable housing strategy involves directly linking where you live to how much money you make.

We’re being told only families earning at least $80,000 a year can afford to buy a home in Vancouver.

“When it comes to the affordability and the tenure of housing that will come out of the supply in the next ten years, it’s just not going to match what the community is needing.”

Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, the city’s general manager of community services, also says nearly 48,000 new households are expected by 2026.

“What we found is a significant gap for people who are single and making less than $50,000 a year. We’re going to be producing less than half of the housing that they’ll be needing.”

While admitting the situation doesn’t look good now, Llewellyn-Thomas says the upcoming ‘reset’ should help.

“What we’ve been hearing is young people and families are not able to find affordable rental opportunities. They’re also not able to find places that they would like to buy and stay in and our statistics are showing that families and young people are leaving Vancouver at a very high rate — alarming rate — of 20 per cent since the last census.”

She says at least 9,500 affordable rental homes will be needed by 2026 and right now, about 50,000 renters are already spending more than a third of their annual income on housing.

Advocates have been demanding the construction of at least five thousand affordable units in the Downtown Eastside where the average rent is about $550 a month and, as of last year, 972 people qualified as homeless.

Gil Kelley, the city’s general manager of planning, says anyone earning less than $50,000 a year is looking at a long commute.

“Part of it literally is getting at more supply of rental. The other side of it is can some portion of that rental actually be guaranteed at low prices.”

He says developers will be tempted by various incentives.

“To offer density bonuses where a certain amount of guaranteed, longterm affordable housing is provided as a part of that, so that developer’s actually getting back something. One potential to explore, for example, is a requirement for someone to have inclusionary housing on any project rather than negotiating site by site, but to have a sort of standard inclusionary requirement. Many cities in the US, for example, do that.”

A new pilot program is expected to deliver up to two thousand new housing units in one year.

Kelley adds this new strategy doesn’t require a lot of funding from other levels of government.

This week’s federal budget includes more than $11-billion for a national housing fund, but it’s not clear how much of that is BC-bound.

NPA Councillor Melissa De Genova, who was at today’s technical briefing at City Hall, says she agrees the old housing strategy needs to be re-set, but….

“I am very cautious and I will be asking questions on Tuesday. Will expediting permits for some affordable housing sites mean some market sites will actually be held back even farther? Will it be one for the other or will we be adding staff? So, I think that it’s interesting now that Vision Vancouver has moved forward with a housing ‘reset’ or refresh. You usually see that with a new government –not a government that’s been in for nine years.”

She also points out Mayor Gregor Robertson’s promise to end homelessness in Vancouver by 2015 has failed, but the city’s Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas insists efforts are still being made to provide safe shelter for anyone needing it.

“And we’ve also been working at the regional level to talk about ensuring that homelessness is rare, brief and one-time, so we’re looking at our outreach teams. What are they doing to engage with people who need housing? How can we get them to the health supports, the income supports, as well as the housing supports that they might need.”

She adds her Community Services department now includes a homeless services division.