Victoria moves swiftly on housing fund

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

Nearly all of $500M earmarked for affordable suites has been allocated

The Vancouver Sun

The B.C. government has already committed almost all of the money from a $500-million fund for affordable housing projects that Premier Christy Clark announced two months ago.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman said he’s moved quickly to get all the money locked into projects before the end of the province’s fiscal year, March 31.

That pace has meant a stream of early announcements, with three projects becoming public on Wednesday and four others since Oct. 27.

“Some of it’s been announced because we’re working through the details of individual projects,” Coleman told Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer Thursday on Voice of B.C. on Shaw TV.

Premier Christy Clark unveiled the funding on Sept. 19, saying she’d use $500 million in property transfer taxes from the real estate sector to identify and approve construction on 2,900 rental units. She billed it as a way to address a housing affordability crisis in which rising home prices were squeezing out both homeowners and renters from the market.

The money is supposed to specifically help provide below-market housing to at-risk tenants such as seniors, students, First Nations, transitioning youth, the disabled, and women and children fleeing abusive relationships.

So far, the announced projects include $18.4 million for 131 senior and family units in Kelowna, $3.1 million for 24 units for seniors and the disabled in Keremeos, $4.7 million for 35 low-income senior units in Okanagan, $6 million for 35 low-income family units in Chilliwack, $11 million for an additional 80 units for low-income families and youth at an aboriginal society in Chilliwack, $2 million for 27 affordable rental units in Whistler and $45 million for 510 units for a variety of seniors, families and the disabled in Greater Victoria.

Coleman indicated more announcements that include projects in Metro Vancouver will be coming soon.

He said he was able to move quickly because government had earlier this year already identified more housing projects than it could afford out of a previous $355-million affordable housing fund.

“It was way oversubscribed,” he said. “So in there about 10 to one was what we had ability versus proposals, so that allowed us to refine all of those because we had the proposals in front of us anyway.”

He said that government is being offered free land by non-profit organizations, and municipalities are offering to waive development charges and other taxes to get new housing off the drawing board.

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