NDP’s John Horgan vows co-op housing funds, slams ‘Christy Clark’s housing crisis’
Gloves off in B.C. election campaign as Opposition leader blames government for unaffordability, ‘distress’
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British Columbia’s Opposition leader accused Premier Christy Clark of creating the housing crisis in the province and then sitting “idly by,” in an election campaign announcement Wednesday afternoon.
John Horgan made the remarks as he promised to budget an estimated $11 million a year to replace expiring federal subsidies for low-income residents of B.C.’s 14,500 co-operative housing units.
“We don't believe that these people should be left with the anxiety that's resulting from the federal withdrawal from this sector,” he told reporters in South Vancouver’s Cedar Mill Housing Co-op. “We don't believe that it's enough to just let Christy Clark just sit idly by and create a housing crisis — not just for those who are trying to buy in Vancouver, not just for those who can't find rental accommodation in Vancouver, but (also) those who are currently in co-op housing who are in distress.”
He added that the funding was just a start if his party wins next May’s election, saying the NDP is developing a longer-term plan to expand the number of co-op units in the province and negotiate with the federal government on affordable housing.
For Tom McGregor, a resident of Cedar Mill Housing Co-op for 18 years who attended Horgan’s announcement, the pledge signals an important recognition of the importance of the housing model.
“As a person with a disability, I needed an accessible unit,” he told Metro. “Co-ops they provide much of the disability housing stock in the city that's not a hospital or care unit.
“I'm in a position where I'm not in a subsidized unit but it’s comforting to know that, should my health or income drop, I would be taken care of.”
The Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C.’s government relations director, Darren Kitchen, said it is “obviously important to keep the subsidies for vulnerable people who otherwise would just end up on BC Housing's waiting list, which is already way too long.
“Why push them out and force the provincial government to put them somewhere else?”
In a May 9 sitting of the Legislature, which is not currently in session, B.C.’s minister responsible for housing Rich Coleman said co-op housing residents are not eligible for low-income rent supplements because they’re “considered homeowners and not renters, and therefore they’re not eligible.”
But he added, “that may change over time as the federal agreements expire, and the individuals within projects could become eligible for rent assistance on expiry.
“I guess the chickens are coming home to roost on this one in the next few years. We will work with the federal government … and we’re going to work through that.”
Horgan, however, criticized Coleman’s response to the co-op housing issue as too slow.
“Co-op residents are fearful that their quality of life will disappear … and when they go to the province for answers they're not getting any,” Horgan said.