Looking for solutions to B.C's housing crisis

Housing crisis deepens

We have a housing crisis.

The lack of affordable housing has been a significant concern for many residents in Kelowna-Mission, and it is something I am working tirelessly to address.

Last week in the Legislative Assembly, I told the story of an 81-year-old senior who is on the brink of homelessness because they cannot afford housing, and have been on the waiting list for seniors’ subsidized housing for the last two years. They are hopeless and homeless.

I wish this was an isolated case. Recently, on my way to the airport, I spoke to a constituent in his 70s who is no longer able to make ends meet. His rent has almost doubled in the last year, as his unit was turned into a seasonal rental, sending him looking for another rental home in town.

He showed me his budget and, after looking through it, I was filled with indignation knowing society is asking him to subsist below any minimum income wage rate. But it is also $500 over what would be required for social assistance. Again, some seniors are being required to live in poverty.

This is a familiar tale. Young adults are living with parents for longer as they cannot afford to move out. Most will not be able to afford housing ownership, as right now it takes an income of $250,000 per year to qualify for an average home – and that is if they can save up enough for a down payment.

A recent study found it would currently take 22 years to save for a 20% down payment.

So what is the current NDP government’s answer to this homemade crisis?

Almost six years ago, it produced a 30-point plan that focused on lowering the demand for housing. More than 13 new costs and taxes increased the cost of housing and made it less affordable while making it more difficult to build.

A year and a half ago, the then housing minister and now Premier David Eby finally admitted taxes were not going to get us to more affordable housing.The government plan also promised 114,000 new affordable housing units in six years. To date, just under 10% of those units have been completed, with 2,300 units of them already underway when the NDP came into government.

So what does this leave us with? Currently, B.C. sitting with the highest rental and market housing rates in North America. Here in Kelowna, we are the fourth highest in highest rental rates in Canada. That is why we have seniors living in their cars, and young adults living with their parents or sharing five bedroom houses with 10 people.

What’s the answer?

We need to focus on creating opportunities for economic growth in our community. That means supporting local businesses, attracting new investments and creating great paying jobs for residents. By working together with local business leaders and community organizations, we can create a thriving economy that allows young adults to afford the housing that is required.

We also need government to get out of the way. There are too many needless processes that overlap with others, and too many fees and costs.

In addition, (local) governments don’t commit to stable timeframes for issuing approvals, which can increase risk and further drive up the costs of housing, making it unattainable.

We also need increased funding for affordable housing projects, but those projects need to be done in a less costly way. The provincial B.C. Housing Society builds housing at some of the highest prices in the province. Those are taxpayer funds, and they need to be spent wisely.

We need local organizations and community groups to identify creative solutions to the housing crisis. We need to work with developers to ensure additional capacity is brought on and housing units can be built faster.

All these measures can help to increase the supply of affordable housing in our community, which is essential for ensuring everyone has access to safe, comfortable and affordable housing options.

It is unacceptable for our seniors not have a place to live, or to have them live in poverty because of the exorbitant cost of rent. It is also not acceptable to have young people without the dream of owning their own home.

It is time real action is taken to deliver results on our housing affordability.

Together, we can ensure seniors and other vulnerable populations have access to secure, attainable, and suitable housing options and everyone in our community has a place to call home.

My question to you this week is this:

What other solutions do you see for our lack of housing affordability?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email I receive. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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