Government is helping to fix the BC housing crisis

Opinion Leaders

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VIC­TO­RIA — The B.C. gov­ern­ment is set to roll out its plan to cre­ate al­most 2,900 new rental units Tues­day, with half the af­ford­able hous­ing stock ear­marked for the Lower Main­land. Premier Christy Clark and Hous­ing Min­is­ter Rich Cole­man will un­veil 68 af­ford­able hous­ing projects across the province, to­talling 2,897 new rental units. The de­tails flesh out how the province plans to spend a $500-mil­lion hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity fund first an­nounced by Clark in Septem­ber. Half of the new rental spa­ces, or roughly 1,441 units in 22 projects, will be lo­cated in the Lower Main­land and Fraser Val­ley, which have been hard­est hit by the hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis. That in­cludes 202 rental units in three projects in Burn­aby, 160 units in one project in Rich­mond, 326 units in five projects in Sur­rey and 611 units in 10 projects in the City of Van­cou­ver. Cole­man has pre­vi­ously an­nounced low-in­come fam­ily and youth units in Chilliwack, as well as af­ford­able rental units in Whistler. The gov­ern­ment will make the an­nounce­ment in Sur­rey, where it plans to high­light a $4.7-mil­lion part­ner­ship with the YWCA Metro Van­cou­ver to cre­ate 40 apart­ments for low-to-mod­er­ate-in­come sin­gle moth­ers who have chil­dren with spe­cial needs. Those kinds of part­ner­ships with com­mu­nity groups, pri­vate de­vel­op­ers and other gov­ern­ments have been cited by Cole­man as key to stretch­ing the pro­vin­cial fund­ing to pro­vide even more rental spa­ces. The YWCA al­ready op­er­ates seven sup­port­ive hous­ing com­mu­ni­ties across Metro Van­cou­ver, and has plans for four more. For clients such as Jen Buck­ing­ham, ex­pand­ing the YWCA sup­port is es­sen­tial. Buck­ing­ham’s 14-yearold daugh­ter Dorothy has ve­lo­car­dio­fa­cial syn­drome (VCFS) and autism, mean­ing she can be prone to loud out­bursts, mak­ing it a chal­lenge to get a tra­di­tional rental unit from a land­lord who might not be sym­pa­thetic to such dis­rup­tion, said Buck­ing­ham. Buck­ing­ham ob­tained the YWCA’s help to find sup­port­ive hous­ing in Sur­rey, and said new units ded­i­cated to moth­ers with spe­cial-needs chil­dren are crit­i­cal. “I think it’s a very pos­i­tive move and hope they con­tinue with more along the same lines,” she said. Clark billed the af­ford­able hous­ing fund as an at­tempt to help at-risk renters who had been squeezed out of the hous­ing mar­ket by in­creased home sales and ris­ing prices. The rev­enue comes from B.C.’s prop­erty trans­fer tax, which has been a fi­nan­cial wind­fall in re­cent months for the pro­vin­cial trea­sury. Se­niors, sin­gle par­ents, youth tran­si­tion­ing, the dis­abled, First Na­tions, and women and chil­dren flee­ing abu­sive re­la­tion­ships are the pri­or­ity for the hous­ing fund, Clark has said. It’s also one plank in the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis in Metro Van­cou­ver, which in­cluded a 15 per cent for­eign buy­ers tax in­tro­duced in Au­gust. Crit­ics have said Clark’s gov­ern­ment was too slow to act to cool the mar­ket, and it has not done enough to help vul­ner­a­ble home­own­ers or renters. A hand­ful of re­main­ing hous­ing projects are ex­pected to be an­nounced later this year.

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