The B.C. government is on track to hit its ambitious target of building 114,000 new homes of affordable housing over 10 years with the help of community partners, but more work needs to be done, said the housing minister at an affordable-housing conference Sunday.
Addressing attendees of the three-day Housing Central conference at a Downtown Vancouver hotel, Selina Robinson said 22,460 homes have been completed or are underway across B.C. as of August, with new buildings breaking ground every week.
“We are well on our way of achieving our goal,” she said, adding 114,000 is a “big number.” “There is still so much more to do.”
The B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association analyzed the need across B.C. and came up with the target of 114,000 units, which include market-rental, non-profit, supported social housing and owner-purchase housing.
The provincial government has earmarked more than $7 billion over 10 years toward affordable housing, working in partnership with non-profits, private sector developers, faith based groups and other levels of government.
While her speech at the conference may have been rosy, it is also accurate, said Robinson after the session. She receives updates every quarter on the progress of the various projects across B.C. “We have a target and I’m tracking it very closely.”
Out of the 22,460 homes, close to 3,300 have been completed, with 6,300 under construction and about 12,870 in the early development and approval process.
Getting projects from blueprint to opening doesn’t happen overnight, Robinson said. “We recognize we are in a bit of a bulge. We put our first call for housing so everything has to go through the planning sequence and that takes time.”
In the spring, B.C. Housing will kick off a new round of proposal calls for projects under the Indigenous-housing and community-housing funds for affordable rental homes for low- to moderate-income residents.
Because of the need to build more housing and fast, the government has made changes to the B.C. Building Code, allowing for wood buildings up to 12-storeys high, up from the previous six storey-maximum, said Robinson.
It’s also tracking vacancy rates in housing rental stocks and is trying to collect data on basement suites. It also now requires municipal governments to collect data for a housing-needs assessment every five years.
Jill Atkey, CEO of the housing association, said she is confident the target of 114,000 new homes over a decade is achievable given there is co-operation between the three levels of government and community partners.
Current challenges facing the non-profit industry right now is the lack of alignment of funding programs and schedules between the provincial and federal governments, which is holding up some projects, she said.
Pockets of community opposition against affordable housing projects such as supportive housing or workforce rental housing are also delaying some projects.