October 4, 2021:
For years, the RPRC affordable housing policy area group successfully lobbied to preserve existing affordable rental housing and apartments and to improve access to affordable housing through a registry, legalizing secondary suites and other strategies.
In 2002 the group identified five (5) key recommendations (all of which have, over the years, been adopted in one form or another):
- Housing Registry to improve access – BC Housing now maintains a registry of available suites.
- Legalize Secondary Suites – encourages the full use of homes and provides some protection to tenants.
- Standards of Maintenance Guidelines – ensures that landlords are providing minimum standards for items such as water, heat, and air quality. Prior to adoption, landlords were using basic utilities as a weapon to remove unwanted tenants
- Universal Design Guidelines — ensures accessibility and livability across the spectrum. Guidelines cover access for people with disabilities, but they also cover issues like ensuring homes are suited for sport-minded teenagers (wide halls and proper storage).
- Affordable Housing Strategy — adopted by the city in 2007, builders are now required to include affordable housing in large developments.
In 2010 the affordable housing policy area group along with other community groups concerned about affordable housing co-sponsored “Building Hope” Richmond Affordable Housing Forum. The forum was designed to educate attendees to the strategies that were adopted by the City of Richmond in its Affordable Housing Strategy. See the forum report here.
In support of the forum recommendations, the group united with other organizations in the formation of the Richmond Homelessness Coalition – Homes for All, working together to address housing issues in Richmond. The RHC-HFA was disbanded in 2018 by the City of Richmond when administrative support was removed from the coalition.
The RPRC continues to work on Homelessness issues and has been the lead organization for Richmond Homeless Connect (also called RHC) since 2009, organizing an event every October that brings together people who are homeless and at-risk, to connect with social service agencies, and receive in-person services. In 2020 COVID-19 changed everything, however through 2020-2021 the RHC planning committee has continued to provide hygiene/ cleaning kits to individuals and families in collaboration with community meals and the Food Bank.
Since 2015, the RPRC has also been the lead organization for the Richmond Food Aid Delivery Coalition (FAD), a group of volunteers, mainly the faith community, that provides hot meals to Richmond’s street-entrenched homeless every night of the year.
From 2016 to the present, the RPRC has been the Richmond representative to the Council of Metro Vancouver and Regional Homelessness Tables (CHT). The Council shares information and best practices in homelessness prevention, housing and supports for people who are homeless in BC. The CHT hosts a biennial Forum that brings together practitioners, front line workers, staff of many municipalities, civic politicians, and people with lived experience of homelessness to learn from each other.
In 2017, the RPRC made successful recommendations to City Council to improve the Affordable Housing Strategy. We asked for an increase in the percentage of affordable housing units that developers were mandated to build, and a reduction in the threshold number of units so more developers would be compelled to provide affordable units. The numbers now are that developments of 60+ units must include 10% of their units as affordable housing.
In 2018, the RPRC organized a grassroots campaign called Richmond United for Supportive Housing or RUSH, that brought together social service agency leaders, faith community leaders, social justice activists and others to advocate for a 40-unit temporary modular housing development for people who are homeless. They challenged NIMBYism in the community, lobbied Councillors, held rallies, and came out in full force for the City’s public hearing. City Council approved the development, and the housing was built and occupied in 2019. A second temporary modular housing development is being built and will be occupied in late 2021.
RPRC representatives were on the City’s Homelessness Strategy steering committee and made separate recommendations to improve the strategy beyond City staff’s recommendations to Council. The Homelessness Strategy was adopted in 2019 with some improvements including a table for people with lived experience to provide advice to City staff and Council.
In late 2019, the RPRC established the R.E.N.T. (Richmond Electors Needing Tenancy) Committee and proposed that when Lansdowne is redeveloped, it should become 100% rental tenancy, with a mix of non-market and market rentals.
In 2020, the RPRC advocated to City staff to modify the City’s tenant relocation policy to make it more geared to tenants (not developers) and easier to access on the City website. The City’s resulting 2 pager can also be found on the RPRC website by googling ‘Richmond tenant relocation policy.’
In 2021, the RPRC re-established our standing committee on Affordable Housing and Homelessness. The first action is to investigate gaps in the City’s Affordable Housing Strategy and other related City policies and to advocate for improvements that will positively affect the lives of low-income residents in Richmond.