Vancouver Sun: B.C. coalition launches affordable housing plan, calls for response from political parties

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Chuck Chiang, The Vancouver Sun, April 10 (with quotes from BCNPHA CEO Kishone Roy)

A group of local housing advocates is calling for an annual investment of $1.8 billion — paid for by Ottawa, the province and the non-profit “community housing” sector — over the next 10 years to help resolve B.C.’s lack of affordable housing.

The B.C. Rental Housing Coalition, which counts the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C., Landlord B.C. and others as members, said the amount is simply what is needed to address what has become one of the most urgent issues facing British Columbians.

“We are very confident that the cost of inaction would be vastly more expensive than the costs proposed in this plan,” said Kishone Roy, chairman of the coalition and CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association. “We are at a point where we have to stop looking at addressing the symptoms and start looking at the root causes of homelessness and of affordable housing.”

Among the report’s key proposals are the leveraging of land assets accumulated by non-profit community housing agencies, and using community land trusts as vehicles to direct government and private-sector investment to those assets, resulting in the construction of rental housing that would not be subject to market speculation.

Other initiatives include the creating a provincial “Renter’s Grant” by combining exiting programs for seniors and low-income families and expanding support funding to other low-income households. An expanded “shared-equity home ownership” — where residents can buy partial ownership of the units they live in — was also put forward as an option to increase affordability in B.C.

The $1.8 billion would be divided between the federal and provincial governments ($691.3 million each), as well as the community housing sector ($461.7 million).

“That’s one of the innovative features in the plan,” said Thom Armstrong, executive director of the Co-op Housing Federation of B.C. “It is proposing a new model for housing delivery that doesn’t just rely on government resources. … What’s unprecedented is the level of cooperation that could be demonstrated by government, the private sector and the community housing sector.”

Armstrong added that the timing of the report’s release — roughly a month prior to the provincial election — was a deliberate move to bring new ideas to the affordable-housing debate at a time when political interest is high.

According to the group’s statistics, there are at least 6,860 homeless people in B.C., and up to 117,000 households need help to afford their rent payments. The report also estimates that the province will need an annual average of 7,000 rental units brought to the market to resolve the current backlog of demand.

In its re-election platform, the Liberals have mostly proposed initiatives to create jobs in high-paying sectors like technology to address affordability, although the plan also includes the doubling of home renovation tax credits to seniors to $20,000, as well as tax credits of up to $2,500 for those who provide care for seniors. The province has also committed $920 million in new funding to build affordable rental housing.

The NDP, meanwhile, will announce its platform later this week. Housing critic and Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby said the party’s platform will include a new tax on real estate speculators not currently paying taxes in B.C., as well as new regulations allowing universities to borrow money to build rental housing. The total value of units generated by the NDP package “will come pretty close” to the coalition’s request, Eby said.

Roy noted, however, that the plan’s announcement is not looking to influence policy just for the coming election.

“This is not going to be solved by the time of the provincial election,” he said. “It will be years and years after that. … We need to talk to MLAs on all sides to learn more about their local communities and become advocates in the legislature moving forward.”

The full report is at www.housingcentral.ca/sites/HousingCentral.

http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/b-c-coalition-launches-affordable-housing-plan-calls-for-response-from-provincial-parties

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