Protecting Housing Affordability

“We need to build more affordable housing options in our community.  As founding president of the Society for Housing Affordability in BC, and a former member of the Minister's Advisory Council on Affordable Housing, I know fully the effect that proper and affordable housing can have on the success of a family, particularly a single-parent family.  Cities like Coquitlam can play a key role – not just with the successes we’ve had recently with our YWCA affordable housing project (now under construction) and the homeless shelter (funding approved and ready to start this spring), but with market rental housing, with housing for our aging population, and with affordable home ownership options for young families.” - Richard

Background


We need to be much more innovative as a City, so that we can continue to see the construction of more housing choices for families who currently suffer from inadequate housing.  In past decades I did a great deal of work in the area of creative partnerships for the construction of affordable housing, and that’s why I support the City’s continued involvement with some of these types of projects with some of the groups that are members of the Tri-City Housing Coalition.  And we need to manage all of our tax dollars as efficiently as possible so that we can minimize the property tax burden on housing, and ensure that we will have the resources as a community to respond to the needs of our residents, particularly related to housing for the most vulnerable. 

I believe that there is much we can do to improve housing choices for a wide range of the housing spectrum -- not only the homeless, but also families living below the poverty line, as well as the thousands of working families (especially single-parent families) who are only a paycheck or two from a housing crisis.  The complete lack of new rental housing construction in the past 20 years, in addition to the effects of some City bylaws, has created some real shortage in many parts of our housing spectrum.  These issues need to be addressed, and I'm working to ensure we do just that.

During my six years as Mayor, we’ve worked to ensure that we have much more rental housing available today than we did in 2008.  We will continue to expand the stock of rental housing – not in buildings in “low-income rental” neighbourhoods, buildings that can present some of the worst social challenges to their residents, but across our city in a wide range of housing forms and styles, to help ensure the success of families who need rental housing.

For example, in 2012 we completed construction at 528 Como Lake.  This 30-unit housing project, built by the YWCA with funding from the province, will accommodate families of single mothers who are struggling to get back on their feet.  The City was catalyst to the project by providing the land on a free lease for 60 years, which allowed the project to be built (at the end of the lease, the entire project including the land reverts to the City).  And we’re now working on a proposal for the expansion of this important project.

And of course, we are preparing for the beginning of construction at 3030 Gordon, another City parcel that was put up on long-term lease to support the construction of homeless shelter.  We’ve been working on this homeless shelter for several years; rezoning and development permit are in place, and construction is starting on a long-awaited – and vitally-important – homeless shelter to be open for the cold weather season in 2015.

Moving Forward


Of course, we need to do more to improve affordability across the spectrum of housing, particularly for young families and for seniors.  Both these groups struggle in many instances because of the high land costs in the lower mainland.  Cities must find creative options to lower the land costs per unit, so that these households can find suitable housing without having to move out of the region. 

In Coquitlam, we’re leading the way.  Our Housing Choices program promotes affordability, along with more transit-friendly neighbourhoods, through the construction of smaller homes as sensitive infill in existing neighbourhoods.  Instead of seeing neighbourhoods damaged by the demolition of a perfectly good smaller home and its replacement by a “monster home” (as has been happening for two decades throughout the city), we want to encourage the retention of many of those existing homes (where suitable), and the construction of infill housing, laneway housing, carriage homes, etc.  This allows existing residents and seniors to stay in their neighbourhoods, and can allow younger families to move into neighbourhoods where schools are half-empty, allowing them to breathe new life back into those corners of our city. 

We’ve seen much enthusiasm for Housing Choices and for many of the other initiatives we’ve undertaken in the past six years to improve affordability.

Similarly, we need to be creative with our rental housing stock.  There are enormous financial barriers to the construction of affordable market rental housing.  We need to work with senior governments to overcome those barriers.  As Coquitlam’s representative on the Metro Vancouver Housing Committee, I am putting my expensive policy work on housing to work at the regional level, all aimed at finding solutions through the tax system and other government structures.  We need to be aggressive in finding a solution, so that the large number of Coquitlam residents who rely on rental housing can be assured that they will not be priced out of the market, and that the quality of our rental stock is maintained.

Housing is my background and my passion.  By working on the housing choices we offer residents, we can have a much better community for our children and our grandchildren.

Join with me for a bright future for Coquitlam.

Richard



"We reaffirm our commitment to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing as provided for in international instruments. To that end, we shall seek the active participation of our public, private and non-governmental partners at all levels to ensure legal security of tenure, protection from discrimination and equal access to affordable, adequate housing for all persons and their families."
from Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, 1996.

       http://www.unhabitat.org/declarations/ist-dec.htm

 

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Richard get re-elected!

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Campaign Office: 2565 Barnet Highway Coquitlam, BC, V3K 4E2
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richard@richardstewart.ca  

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