BC’s $355m, Ottawa’s cash make for “once in a generation” affordable housing opportunity

lux-exteriorPremier Christy Clark’s pledge to put $355 million into affordable housing investment in the five next years, combined with Ottawa’s commitment to restart federal housing investment, amounts to a “once in a generation” opportunity to build affordable housing.

That was the compelling pitch Tony Roy, chief executive office of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, made to Metro Vancouver’s Housing Committee Friday in a presentation that concluded the region needs 3,000 new units a year to keep pace with demand. The provincial plan would build only a fraction of that.

(The BCNPA has created a unique Canadian Rental Housing Index that provides an easy tool to research the depth of the housing crisis across the country.)

But with municipal support in the form of land — Vancouver has offered up 20 sites worth $250 million for affordable housing construction — the province could begin to recover from years of neglect of social and affordable housing.

So far, Victoria has been evasive about its willingness to partner with Vancouver, but the Metro Housing Committee members, who come from across the region, directed staff to expedite work to identify sites across the Metro that could be ready for an early application to Ottawa. Metro municipalities want to co-operate to build housing, not compete with each other for funds.

Roy pointed up that many of the larger non-profits can also contribute by mobilizing land they now own through the Asset Transfer Program operated by BC — the source of the $355 million.

In Metro alone, 50,000 subsidized rental units make up a critical part of the housing stock, but many are aging and need upgrades. That cash will have to come from the same funds used for new units.

“The hole is deep,” Roy said, “but we can start filling it in.”