We need public development of non-market rental stock and social/supportive housing, including temporary modular housing. Our greatest housing need is for rental stock for low-to moderate-income households that is unprofitable for private-sector developers. We need to change the assumption that private-sector developers should take the lead on building the housing that we need for people and community.
Housing is for community not developers. Let’s look at the Little Mountain Housing site. Ten years ago the residents were removed and the buildings demolished on what was Vancouver’s first social housing site (built in 1954). The 15 acre site continues to be vacant. The community is calling on the government to #Take Back the Mountain (sign their petition) into public hands and “to build the kind of housing that people need and deserve in Vancouver.”
The City is taking a more planned approach toward approving new affordable housing (2018 Housing Strategy), including financial incentives for developers to build rental housing instead of condos. However, the construction of affordable housing is inadequate for the current needs let alone the anticipated future needs. There’s a case to be made for a more public planning model, including public land assembly, project financing and rental housing development for the large build-out we need.
How do we define “social housing” and “affordability”? Recent Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative (CCPA) research considers affordability by looking at the hourly wage that would be required to afford an apartment and allocating no more than 30 per cent of pre-tax earnings to be spent on rent. In Metro Vancouver, a household needs a wage of $26.72 per hour to afford a one-bedroom and $35.43 per hour for a two-bedroom apartment. A person in a minimum wage job, on disability or social assistance cannot afford the current rents.
We need a building program where priority is given to households in extreme housing
need. We need a range of housing options that work for people with different incomes and at different stages in their lives that include larger, family-sized units. The top 3 needs for public housing investment include the following:
We can pay for this! CCPA has crunched the numbers. We can move forward with a build-out program that would see the construction of 10,000 new units of non-market rentals, public housing and co-op housing per year. As an example, City Council just approved the first projects under the Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program, which they approved in November 2017 to create more affordable housing. The pilot allows for up to 20 buildings where at least 20 per cent of the residential units must be set aside for "moderate income households," defined as households earning between $30,000 and $80,000 per year. It’s a start!
Read the CCPA report, “Planning for a build-out of affordable rental housing in Metro Vancouver”.