By Diane Strandberg - The Tri-City News
Published: January 29, 2013 1:00 PM
Updated: January 29, 2013 1:24 PM
Can you afford to live in Coquitlam? Maybe now, but perhaps not in 10 years, predicts a new affordable housing discussion paper now being circulated in the city.
Coquitlam's housing gap — the difference between housing costs and income — is getting so wide that renters and first-time homebuyers won't be able to afford to live here unless some creative approaches are found to make housing more affordable.
Over the next 12 months, the city will be updating its Affordable Housing Strategy, and members of the public, stakeholders, municipal neighbors and other governments will be able to weigh in on the solutions. And they'll be needed if the city is to avoid a Class A housing crunch in the next 10 years.
The picture is gloomy: Thousands of low and moderate income renters displaced by the Evergreen Line, high rents and expensive home prices as the city deals with the influx of an anticipated 50,000 new residents.
What's needed, says the discussion paper, are some creative solutions to provide affordable housing options for 20,000 new units for incoming residents, as well as 4,000 below market units for "higher need households" who would otherwise spend more than 50% of their income on shelter.
How will the city do it; what role should it play? That's the discussion underway now and for the next 12 months as the city looks to updating its 2007 Affordable Housing Strategy.
Monday, Coquitlam's planning department kicked off the discussion by introducing an issues paper and, some of the possible solutions.
As it is, the city is already an expensive place to live. Rents have increased 89% since 1991 and dwelling costs have risen 200% while median household income has climbed just 23% (See sidebar).
New housing/financing options needed
What the next 10 years will bring in terms of housing costs, can't be predicted, but the discussion paper warns of an increasing 'housing gap' with costs vastly outpacing incomes.
Those not already owning in the city, the discussion paper predicts, will be unable to afford to purchase a townhouse or detached house regardless of their occupation.
It's a distressing scenario for those who still hold on to the dream of home ownership, and for those renters, with low to moderate incomes, who need a place to live.
Gone are the days when the city could count on senior governments to build affordable housing.
And the city has to figure out its own role and capabilities for leveraging city land and its growing but still relatively minuscule $1 million Affordable Housing Reserve fund. The discussion paper acknowledges that the city can't go it alone but will have to work with all levels of government as well as private enterprise and non-profit developers to get the job done.
"Given the multi-jurisdictional nature of housing affordability, diminishing levels of support from senior governments and the projected demand for solutions, across the housing continuum, alternative approaches need to be investigated," the report notes.
Over the next 12 months, the city will be looking at affordable housing from every angle with the goal of updating its Affordable Housing Strategy and providing a regulatory framework for the future.
But some ideas are already working. The expansion of secondary suites has proven one of Coquitlam's best responses to housing affordability, and will continue to make it easier for people to rent and own their own homes, the report states.
Several other suggestions are offered for consideration as well, including:
• Lock-off suites, where a unit in a new building can be compartmentalized, with a separate entrance, bathroom and small kitchen for the "lock off" so the homeowner can rent separately.
• Shared equity models, where financing and equity of a home are shared by two individuals
• Freehold townhouses, that avoid strata fees and strata councils
• Innovative purchase plans, such as creative downpayment programs between market lenders and non-profits
Coquitlam will have to look at these, as well as many other new ideas, to ensure that it has affordable housing stock for now and years to come.
For a link to the discussion paper, visit here
Affordable Housing Definition
It's determined by the amount of income an individual or family spends on housing
• for homeowners, no more than 32%
• for renters, 30%, those who spend more than 50% are "at risk of homelessness"
Housing Cost and Income Changes
Median Household Income Average Rent Average Dwelling Value
2011 $60,8880 $1,110 $600,315
1991 $49.400 $586 $200,050