BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Spring 2021
More work needed to provide affordable housing
While welcoming parts of an interim report on ways to make housing more affordable, BC FORUM has advised the authors that there is plenty of room for improvement.
An expert panel on the future of housing supply and affordability was created by the governments of Canada and B.C. in September 2019. After consulting with stakeholders and receiving submissions from the public, the panel released an interim report – titled What We Heard – last August.
In a formal response delivered by President Diane Wood, BC FORUM highlighted three areas where more needs to be done, and one area where the experts simply got it wrong.
BC FORUM endorsed a recommendation to “increase the earnings of the lowest earners to enable them to afford housing” and called for more action to directly support low income seniors.
“We want to point out that one way to address the affordability crisis in regards to seniors housing is to raise seniors’ income,” said Wood.
“We are asking that the province increase the B.C. Seniors’ Supplement and work with other levels of government to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement, Old Age Security, and to improve the Canada Pension Plan.”
BC FORUM took issue with a recommendation that rent control should be eliminated on newly built rentals. The expert panel said this would greatly aid the economics of construction, and that rent control could be phased in as the building ages.
“BC FORUM does not agree with this recommendation as we are concerned it will make housing unaffordable for moderate and low income seniors.
“We are asking that this recommendation be rejected in its entirety,” said Wood.
Wood also expressed disappointment that the interim report is silent on Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER).
“We know that many seniors in B.C. rely on SAFER in order to pay their rent. BC FORUM is also aware that the rent ceilings used to calculate SAFER have not kept pace with rising rents in B.C.”
She called on the government to significantly increase the rent ceiling to better reflect the actual cost of renting.
Finally, BC FORUM called for a greater emphasis on building subsidized housing for seniors.
“We are aware that many seniors in B.C. are in need of subsidized housing. Some of our members are on long waiting lists,” said Wood.
BC FORUM recommended that the province work with housing providers to develop and build seniors subsidized housing – using many of the suggestions in the report – as a priority.
Final report this Spring
The expert panel is charged with identifying measures that can build on government investments and initiatives already underway to help people find affordable housing. A final report is expected in the next few months.
Since 2017, the B.C. government has taken many steps to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes, including the largest investment in housing affordability in B.C. history – $7 billion over ten years. As part of a 30-point housing plan, the government is working with partners to provide 114,000 affordable homes, and has introduced measures aimed at curbing speculative demand that has driven up the cost of homes.