Affordable housing is a topic that impacts nearly every single British Columbian. It will be top of mind for many as they head to the voting booth in municipal elections across the province on Oct. 15. And it’s no wonder — we have experienced a substantial increase in the cost of housing over the past four years, on top of other cost of living increases.
The unfortunate reality is that when it comes to housing policy, the status quo has left communities across our province with an entrenched crisis that continues to worsen. Our three organizations — the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association — are on the frontlines of this urgent situation. For years, we have continued to see more talk than action from elected officials at every level of government.
While politicians of all stripes acknowledge the gravity of affordability issues, not all have demonstrated a willingness to take the bold action needed to properly address it. Housing is a human right, but it has become a commodity.
Growing the community housing sector
Make Housing Central is a partnership of organizations representing B.C.’s community housing sector: BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association.
Our organizations have a long-standing history of gathering forces during election time to ensure that all parties and candidates “make housing central” in their campaigns, and to strengthen and grow the community housing sector to ensure everyone in B.C. has access to a safe, affordable home.
Each of our organizations reflect the diverse range of housing options British Columbia needs — options that reflect our residents’ own diversity in identity, family and lifestyle. However, too many are faced with no options at all in the current economic reality. How do we fix this?
Through land use, zoning laws and housing approvals, municipalities play a key role in shaping the future of communities as they wield a unique set of tools to encourage affordable housing. Each new home contributes to the desperately needed housing supply that will support our province decades into the future.
Beyond the rhetoric
British Columbians deserve leaders who move beyond rhetoric and commit to actionable change by streamlining the supply of Indigenous, non-profit and co-op housing in their communities, reflecting everyone’s desire to have a safe place to call home.
This year, Make Housing Central is using a two-pronged approach to highlight this key issue ahead of the municipal election: the Make Housing Central campaign pledge and the Civic Campaign 2022 Municipal Elections portal.
The Make Housing Central pledge outlines five key actions elected mayors and councillors can take to create the right conditions for affordable housing.
We encourage voters to consider voting for candidates that have signed this housing pledge, where they commit to:
- Include affordable housing targets to meet the unique needs of Indigenous people;
- Streamline municipal permitting and rezoning processes to fast-track the development of rental housing, with a specific focus on affordable rental housing;
- Waive development cost-charges for non-profit and co-op housing developments;
- Contribute public land to non-profit and co-op housing developments for new affordable homes; and
- Delegate approvals of non-profit and co-op housing developments that are consistent with Official Community Plans to municipal staff.
Voters can also make use of our municipal elections portal, which allows visitors to explore their community’s specific housing needs, sourced from the data in provincially mandated Housing Need Assessment reports and critical demographic information for each municipality.
After the election, both the Make Housing Central pledge and municipal elections portal are tools that can be used to hold elected officials accountable, ensuring that they are backing up their promises with action. The online portal will continue to be updated whenever relevant and as accredited housing and demographic data becomes available, meaning that elected councils can also use it to make evidence-based decisions.
The portal demonstrates how no communities in British Columbia are meeting their current and projected housing needs. These are not abstract numbers — these are the targets that municipalities have set for themselves. And no one is keeping up.
Indigenous housing needs must be quantified
A concerning research finding revealed two-thirds of communities made no attempt to assess or quantify Indigenous housing needs. This data is essential for understanding the full extent of the need for Indigenous housing, and must be used to inform a “for Indigenous, by Indigenous” approach in partnership with municipalities in delivering critically needed Indigenous housing in communities across B.C.
We know that finding dedicated affordable housing can especially be challenging for Indigenous people in B.C. As part of their reconciliation journeys, municipalities must streamline the creation of Indigenous housing that is not only affordable, but culturally safe and trauma-informed, with wraparound services to support healthy home lives, prevent homelessness, and help Indigenous families heal and reconnect.
We must prioritize a more equitable, efficient approach to housing so that more vulnerable communities have the chance to live in affordable homes in vibrant, diverse communities across the province.
We invite British Columbians to visit the online portal to understand the specific housing needs within their community and show support to local candidates who have signed our pledge.
Once armed with this information, we challenge you to become an affordable housing champion in your community by educating and discussing this issue with your network. This culture of informed citizenry will foster a more balanced and equitable conversation that reflects the reality of the everyday people who live and work in B.C.
British Columbia’s non-profit housing sector has the solutions and expertise to be an essential partner for local governments to help solve the housing crisis. Regardless of who is elected this weekend, British Columbians can be assured that all three of our associations will continue our important role of researching and advocating for data-backed policy and funding decisions that will improve a wide range of affordable housing options in British Columbia.