Affordable housing program aimed at 'middle-income' families gets $2 billion boost
VANCOUVER -- A housing partnership program designed to create affordable housing units for "middle-income households" in B.C. got a $2 billion boost from the province Thursday, just days ahead of the release of a new provincial budget.
HousingHub, which is a division of BC Housing, is a program that provides low-interest loans to private developers and other community groups that are repaid once housing projects are completed. In exchange, the savings are passed on to renters and buyers through purpose-built affordable housing units.
For private developers, the program provides construction financing that varies depending on credit ratings.
For other agencies – such as churches, legions or non-profit groups that may want to redevelop property they already own, but lack development experience – the program can also pair them up with a consultant that will walk them through the financing and development process to maximize affordability.
“(BC Housing evaluates the projects) through a criteria that particularly emphasizes delivering the most affordable housing possible. That means number of units as well as depths of affordability,” said B.C. Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing David Eby on Thursday.
He says the target income range for the affordable housing units is about $75,000.
Since its creation in 2018, the program has created 1,220 homes, and there are another 1,253 currently under development. The majority are rentals.
BC Housing expects the development financing announced Thursday will deliver about 9,000 new units over three years.
UBC Professor and Generation Squeeze founder Paul Kershaw says the program investment isn’t insignificant, but more needs to be done to cool B.C.’s hot housing market and improve affordability.
“We are going to need to be more aggressive than we have been so far, more bold than we have been so far if, indeed, affordability is our priority, and it ought to be,” Kershaw told CTV News.
“My first impression was it sounds like a lot of money,” Liberal housing critic Ben Stewart told CTV News when asked about the investment.
While Stewart says he supports creating affordable housing options, he wonders if the province can offer enough oversight.
“They’re not really a bank,” Stewart said. “What I am looking for is making certain there is accountability and making certain BC Housing has resources to make certain they can keep tabs on individual builders.”
Kershaw expects Tuesday’s provincial budget will likely include other housing-related funding, despite the financial pressure caused by the pandemic.
“I suspect this (funding announcement) is coming out on a Thursday ahead of a Tuesday budget in a way to help build up momentum and help set in motion more conversation,” Kershaw said.