The BC Rental Housing Coalition has released a proposal to tackle the affordable housing crisis in the province, bringing municipalities and not-for-profits into the funding plan.
Created by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC and LandlordBC, the Affordable Housing Plan for BC estimates that $1.8 billion per year for ten years will increase the rental housing supply, close the affordability gap and address chronic homelessness across the province.
"The cost of inaction is much more expensive than action," said Kishone Roy, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.
"The problem is very much solveable," said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC.
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In addition to the $691 million over the ten years the federal and provincial would invest, the report proposes that community groups, municipalities, and non-profits would fund the leftover $461 million through land contributions, leveraging equity from assets, private donations and financing.
In February, the Metro Vancouver task force on homelessness released 12 recommendations again calling on the provincial and federal governments to create and fund a provincial poverty reduction plan.
But Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, said it's time for all levels of government to work together.
"We're done with the blame game pointing the finger at governments. We're at a new era of partnerships" - Thom Armstrong #makehousingcentral
— CHF BC (@chfbc) April 10, 2017
Using a housing first strategy, the report states that for every $10 spent on affordable housing, $21 is saved in costs related to health care, the justice system, shelters and other social supports.
Roy said that there needs to be a province-wide list of all homeless individuals so that they can be targeted for housing.
The $1.8 billion in funding would be used to create about 80,000 new units, or about $7,000 each year – the estimated number of backlogged rental spaces, according to the report. At least 3,500 of the new units that need to be built in B.C. must be affordable housing, according to Roy.
Repairing and retrofitting affordable housing units that already exist would be backed by $125 million of the plan’s annual budget.
The funds would also provide a boost to income assistance to address the affordability gap – the difference between what renters pay for shelter and what they can afford.
According to the report, 117,000 renter households required some form of income assistance for rental payments last year.
“Previous federal and provincial social housing supply programs allowed for the replacement of some building components, but did not factor in long-term capital upgrades,” the report reads.
Advocates are recommending the province create a single renter’s grant that would be available to all low-income co-op and renter households. Currently, the two main rent supplement programs in BC are the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program and the Rental Assistance program for low-income families with children.
“There are currently several rent assistance programs in B.C. but none are universally available or at a rate high enough to cover the affordability gap,” the report says.