Affordable housing: a survey of 15 Metro Vancouver cities

In my February 9 post on measures for comparing B.C. communities,  I overlooked a 2011 report by Margaret Eberle and associates on affordable housing and housing diversity.

The report, submitted to the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation,  measures the performance of 15 Metro Vancouver municipalities — the 15 largest — in implementing the 2007 regional housing strategy.

The regional strategy listed 35 ways that local governments can promote housing affordability for renters and owners.  The Eberle report finds that, as of last summer, Vancouver City had adopted 80 per cent of the recommended actions, Delta had adopted 23 per cent, and other municipalities sat in between.  (Incidentally, the appropriate municipal policies were often in place long before the 2007 strategy appeared.)

Only 7 of 15 communities had created local affordable housing action plans more than three years after the adoption of the regional strategy.  Other recommendations had  stronger uptake: for example, 87 per cent of communities had moved to allow secondary suites in single-family residential areas; 80 per cent had placed restrictions on the conversion of rental units into condominiums.

With regard to homelessness, a problem that affects municipalities of all sizes, one-third of the local governments surveyed were not engaged in any community process around how to address the situation, and one-third had never facilitated the construction of an emergency shelter or transitional housing.

I can’t say whether all the actions recommended in the 2007 regional strategy are practical.  But we might ask: if the recommendations aren’t practical, why was the strategy adopted?  Contrariwise, if the recommendations are practical, why have they not been implemented?

A big part of the answer, no doubt, lies in dreary old NIMBYism: resistance by homeowners against the creation of rental housing, social housing and densification.  However, there’s also an element of apathy.  I find no news converage of the Eberle report online, and no reference to any discussion of its findings.

The issue of housing affordability touches a lot of lives.  The Canadian standard for affordability is that less than 30 per cent of household income should be spent on housing.  Using this measure, the 2006 census estimated that 17 per cent of households in Metro Vancouver are in “core housing need “, meaning their housing  does not meet affordability standards or it’s in poor condition.  This is the situation facing 54 per cent of single senior women who are renting, and 50 per cent for single mothers who rent.  In Abbotsford-Mission, representing most of the balance of Fraseropolis, 13 per cent of households are in core housing need according to the latest figures, including 56 per cent of single senior women renters and 59 per cent of single mothers who rent.

5 responses

  1. Great posting Ian. This is a topic that deserves a lot more attention in Maple Ridge. Would you be willing to bring the Eberle report to a Wednesday Community Discussion at the CEED Centre, or to host a public forum on the topic of affordable housing in MR? We had a great discussion on seniors co-housing this weeking, presented by Devorah White. The link to the Eberle report did not work in your blog, so I am curious to see what it reported on MR’s status. Since we have teh supported housing project, I am sure it registers at least some activity. But is it enough for a population of 80,000, soon to be 140,000? Your thoughts?

    • Hey Christian – Thanks for that. The above link to the Eberle report works in my PC, but Adobe PDFs can be glitchy for sure. The report presents two pages of detail on each municipality surveyed. In Maple Ridge, with a population of 69,000 in 2006, 19% of households were renting at the time of the last census — compared, for example, with 46% in New Westminster, a community that is both older and much more transit-oriented. 3180 households in Maple Ridge (13% of the total) were in core housing need, and 1510 were at risk of becoming homeless. As of last summer, Maple Ridge had taken 18 of the 35 actions set out in the regional housing strategy. A public discussion of what else our local government might do sounds good. I’d be happy to provide a summary of what’s in place and what’s missing.

  2. Pingback: Affordable Housing Update – 1 | Price Tags

  3. Pingback: The Daily Durning’s Housing Summary | Price Tags

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