Letter to the editor: more rental housing needed

It’s no secret that adequate and affordable housing is an ongoing issue here in Richmond, as well as other parts of the Lower Mainland. Here is Richmond PRC chairperson De Whalen’s letter to the editor she submitted to the Richmond News recently on the subject:

At last, a Richmond Councillor who is prepared to be a champion for adequate and affordable rental housing! Thank you Bill McNulty. He is absolutely right to say Richmond’s Affordable Housing Strategy is not keeping up with the demand for rental housing. With developers only having to provide 5% of their total units (eg. 4 units in an 80 unit development) as affordable rental, we will never catch up. I heartily agree with McNulty’s proposal that the percentage be increased to 15%. But we also need the provincial and federal governments to pitch in.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) defines affordable housing as “adequate shelter that should not exceed 30% of household income. Housing which costs less than this is considered affordable.” The rental rates Cllr. McNulty notes, such as a two bedroom unit for $1175-$1300/month, means a person making less than $4000/month cannot access affordable housing in Richmond.

Adequate and affordable housing not only important to individual households but is also a major driver of economic growth. It affects people’s disposable income, their ability to access employment, their health and wellbeing, and their inclusion in society. The more they have to pay for housing the less they have to pay businesses for other necessities like food, clothing, transportation and childcare.

Housing should be seen as a basic need for everyone. But instead, Federal governments (both Liberals and Conservatives) from the 80s and the 90s created a housing crisis in Canada by reducing federal housing funding from 2% to 1% of their budget. From 1984-1993 $1.8 billion was cut from housing spending. In 1993 all federal funding for new affordable housing stopped. We can see the impact of those cuts in Richmond; through increasing numbers needing the food bank, more people seeking the shelters and drop in centre, more emergency visits by vulnerable residents and higher court and policing costs. Reinstating that lost 1% of funding would allow cities to construct more affordable rental housing and it will cost the taxpayers less.

To respond to Cllr. McNulty’s query about ideas for rental housing, there is a “1% Solution” petition going around at www.housers.ca. Housers is a grassroots movement of Canadians standing up to demand that the government re-allocate 1% of their budget to create affordable housing for all Canadians.

I know Richmond is trying to create more affordable rental housing through its Affordable Housing Strategy. But without the federal government and the 1% Solution, we will never achieve adequate housing in Richmond. Please review and sign the petition. I would also encourage you to ask every one of our federal candidates about their stand on reinstating the 1% funding for affordable housing.