What is affordable housing?

The common definition of affordable housing is any housing that costs less than 30 percent of household income.

Affordable housing is not limited to social or subsidized housing, but can include market rental housing, co-op housing, and home ownership.

In 2002, the City of Calgary adopted a definition of affordable housing that takes into account who affordable housing is designed to serve.

“Affordable housing projects are targeted to households with 65 percent or less of the area median income.  In the city of Calgary, affordable housing initiatives would be targeted to those with a gross income below $37,621.  For housing to be affordable, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has defined that a household should not spend more than 30 percent of gross income on [rental] shelter costs.  The highest priority for affordable housing are “core needs households” that spend more than 50 percent of their income on shelter costs.”

Why do we need a national affordable housing strategy?

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, national policies designed to encourage the development of affordable housing led to a boom in the construction of new affordable housing right across Canada – private and public, rental, owned and co-op.  While some mistakes were made and lessons learned, Canada had a remarkably effective national affordable housing program.

Starting in the late 1980s government policy shifted and by the mid-1990s most affordable housing construction ended.  Recently, some provinces and territories have begun to take action, and while they are often supported by the federal government, the overall coordination and leadership needed to move everyone along is missing.

Municipalities are financially limited in what they can do, and provinces worry that if they act alone they will end up carrying the burden for others. National action is needed.  The provincial, territorial and federal governments need a joint strategy, one that solves the crisis of homelessness and affordable housing across the country.

UBCM Resolution on Affordable Housing

The following is the text of a resolution that will be debated at the upcoming Convention of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, held September 28th to October 2nd, 2009 in Vancouver.

Drafted by the Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, the resolution is sponsored by several municipal governments in the Metro Vancouver region.

WHEAREAS the provision of and access to affordable housing is vital to support the health and well-being of individuals, as well as the sustainability of vibrant and diverse communities.

WHEREAS the changes in senior government funding and the withdrawal of Federal funding for new social housing developments has placed constraints on the construction of new affordable housing units, combined with demand pressures on the existing stock of adequate affordable housing, and ongoing tight rental market conditions has meant that there are nearly 133,100 British Columbians who rent and who are in core housing need.

AND WHEREAS leadership, sustained funding, and strong partnerships are required to increase the supply and diversity of affordable housing across British Columbia:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the UBCM urge the Provincial government and Federal government to work with community partners to develop a National Affordable Housing Strategy which includes provisions that respond to the specific needs of British Columbians; and which provides the necessary long-term funding to support the construction of the full range of affordable housing choices needed in communities across the Province;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the UBCM urge the Provincial government to continue to show leadership on this issue through the provision of on-going funding to meet the housing needs in communities across the Province as well as in ensuring that adequate housing and supports are in place to better meet the needs of those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.