News / Vancouver

Will new agency help Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis?

The city plans to launch a dedicated housing agency in its latest bid to solve the affordable housing crisis that prices would-be homeowners out of the real estate market and keeps people with lower incomes struggling to pay rent.

City council will hear a report this week to establish the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, a separate corporate entity with a budget of about $1 million per year and a mandate to build 2,500 new affordable housing units by 2021.

It plans to fill those units with people whose incomes range from the welfare shelter rate of $375 per month to a family household income of less than $86,500. Housing is considered affordable if it costs 30 per cent or less of a person’s total income.

“We have some of the worst housing prices in the world in Vancouver. If we want to deal with that, we have to be innovative and quick on our feet,” Vision Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs said Sunday.

The new agency will get housing built faster because it will be a one-stop shop for developers or non-profits with proposals to build affordable housing in the city, Meggs said.

Instead of having to go through a complex mix of city departments, proposals will be dealt with by the agency that has the power to form partnerships and redevelop selected city land.

It will focus on building three-bedroom units, a rare find for families on a budget in city limits. Its board will be appointed by council, which will also get a say in the agency’s operating budget and its business plan.

Housing authorities already exist in pricey cities such as Whistler, San Francisco, New York and London.

But NPA Coun. George Affleck questioned why the city needs another agency when it’s council’s mandate to deal with real estate.

“We’re creating a bureaucracy that will be a black hole of information,” Affleck said. “It’s redundant and I don’t think we need it.”

The proposal comes on the heels of the draft 2015 to 2018 capital budget, which recommends an unprecedented $125 million be spent on affordable housing. (That’s about triple the spending in the last capital budget.)

The NPA would prefer to make deals using the city’s land rather than spend cash on affordable housing, Affleck said.

An earlier version of this story said city council will vote to establish the agency this week. In fact, city council will hear a report that will establish such an agency.

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