Comment on Housing Affordability

Photo by Kevin McConnell The disconnection with the past and the soon to be future. Just behind heritage houses, the construction project takes place.
Photo by Kevin McConnell – used with permission

Every single day I hear from people who are struggling with housing affordability. It’s not always the first issue they raise with me, sometimes it’s being unable to buy essential medication or a coat for their child. But the high cost of housing plays a major role in their troubles.

The housing affordability crisis affects nearly everyone, from renters to first-time homebuyers, seniors to young families. With the skyrocketing costs of single family homes throughout Metro Vancouver making headlines, it can be easy to forget that on the other end of the scale, the BC Housing waitlist is horrendously long. I’ve had reports that people waiting as long as 9 years for a one bedroom unit. Non-profit housing providers have struggled to keep up with increasing demand as more and more people are priced out of market housing. Seniors on a fixed income simply can’t afford to have their rent raised every single year.

For those seeking rental housing, there’s the risk of renovictions—a common occurrence in the West End of Vancouver and becoming more frequent in New Westminster—as well as leases that include a “move out clause” meaning that after one year of tenancy, they are not subject to provincially regulated increases. The landlord can raise the rent as much as they see fit and if the tenant can’t pay, they have to move out.

Hearing about frail seniors in homeless shelters and families housed in units that are much too small for them, I certainly understand why some people are feeling hopeless. I believe that government can make a difference by investing in affordable housing and supporting seniors’ services. The City has done much to protect rental stock and create affordable housing, but senior levels of government need to come to the table. We also need to implement the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, such as protecting renters from renovictions and closing the loophole on one year tenancies, as proposed by my colleague Melanie Mark.

The provincial government introduced some knee-jerk legislation this summer after the Official Opposition had already proposed more elegant solutions supported by experts, solutions that would effectively address the housing speculation that is happening in the region.

Working families shouldn’t be forced to move out of New Westminster to find housing that meets their needs. But that is exactly what’s happening.

I am holding a Townhall on Housing Affordability on September 8 at 7PM. We will be gathering at Douglas College in Lecture Theatre N2201. I want to hear your stories about how the housing affordability crisis is affecting you and your family. We will also discuss potential solutions.

We have limited space so please RSVP. You can register on Eventbrite.

Let’s work together to keep New Westminster the strong resilient community that we love!

I hope to see you there.