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Non-profit housing CEO says many factors driving affordability crisis

Housing affordability isn’t just a big city problem.

That’s according to BC Non-Profit Housing Association CEO Jill Atkey, who says it’s impacting every corner of the province.

Atkey says that for renters in particular, the struggle is real.

“When we look at the proportion of renters spending more than they can afford on rent, so spending more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income, it really is smaller communities that are bearing the brunt of this,” she said.

According to the UBCM, Atkey told delegates that 43 percent of B.C.’s nearly 600,000 renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on shelter costs.

She says a couple of different factors are at play, including a shortage of purpose-built rentals, and a lack of federal funding for affordable housing over the years.

Atkey says the association has advocated at both the provincial and federal levels for a renewal of those investments.

She says that while more rental projects are coming, it’s been a slog… partly because of slowdowns at municipal halls in terms of rezoning and the permit process.

Atkey says the real role of the provincial and federal governments in reducing rent is through investment into nonprofit affordable housing, but there are contributions that can happen at the municipal level, as well.

“Property tax exemptions, that make a contribution to lowering rent, a direct contribution from an affordable housing fund, that many municipalities are starting to create, residential development cost charges, waiving those fees… all of that can contribute to a $50 to $70 rent reduction, per unit, per month, on any new building,” she explained. 

“So I’d encourage every municipality to really be looking at some of these ways that they can incentivize new nonprofit rental development. And the reason why nonprofit rental development is important is, what’s built at affordable rates through new development stays affordable forever because our mission drive is to keep rents as low as possible while still running well maintained and high quality buildings.”

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