News Local

New direction for provincial affordable rent funding

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The provincial government appears to be moving away from funding new low-income housing projects and is instead putting dollars into rent assistance - a plan that has a Vancouver councillor concerned.

The pattern was identified by Metro Vancouver senior housing planner Margaret Eberle, who wrote in a housing committee report the creation of new affordable housing units have fallen in the past two years.

Meanwhile, funding for rent assistance has been boosted. In April, money for the Rental Assistance Program and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters were boosted by $12.5 million per year.

As of last year, the number of people receiving rent assistance subsidies have increased to 14,716 in the region - just over half of all provincial allocations, Eberle said in her report.

"... the provincial government may be placing less emphasis on creating new units going forward in favour of expanding rent assistance programs," she said.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang said rent supplements are only good if there's lots of vacant rental housing, but there isn't.

"You can give someone a rent supplement but if they can't find a new unit they can afford with that rent supplement, they're still on the street."

B.C.'s ministry responsible for housing said in a statement rent assistance programs would be further enhanced over the next five years.

"They are more cost effective and provide assistance much faster than building new units," it said.

"While 10,000 new units would cost $2.5 billion and take years to complete; rental assistance for 10,000 families costs around $50 million and is available right away."  

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