New database shows rental housing completions vary widely across municipalities

Website allows voters to compare needs to completed units in their municipality

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Over the past seven years, Pitt Meadows and West Vancouver have built the fewest rental units per capita of any municipality in Metro Vancouver, while the City of North Vancouver has added the most.

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That’s the kind of information that can be pulled from a new website that allows voters to compare the homes they need with those that have been approved and built in 160 municipalities across British Columbia.

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“The most striking thing is that no municipality has been able to experience achievements that come close to needs and demand. For me, that’s the real story of data,” said Thom Armstrong, CEO of the Co-op Housing Federation of BC, which joined the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. to create the website.

The groups hope the information in the database will inspire candidates in the October municipal elections to sign a five-point pledge to streamline the process of building nonprofit, native and co-op housing by reducing red tape and prioritizing land use decisions as well as protecting existing supply.

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The site allows users to search for data from Statistics Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, as well as each municipality’s housing needs assessment. Users can compare information such as the percentage of owners versus renters and the number of units delivered, from market to affordable.

For example, from 2015 to 2021, Pitt Meadows added 13 market rental units, West Vancouver 68 and Richmond 1,008, placing them at the bottom of the list for total number of such units completed relative to population.

The City of North Vancouver added 1,768 market rental units, New Westminster 1,854 and Vancouver 12,750, placing them in the top three for the total number of such units completed relative to population.

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But these figures are still below the needs, according to observers.

“A very important focus of council’s time (in West Vancouver) has been looking at the supply of housing for workers, particularly tenants, and what they’ve built over the last seven years is certainly not not enough to deal with the housing crisis of their workforce,” Jill said. Atkey, CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.

On Vancouver Island, the need for affordable housing also caught the attention of council in Duncan, where there is a homelessness crisis. Currently, 45% of the population are tenants, while 55% are owners. However, in the past seven years, only one market rental unit has been built.

“It’s hard to understand exactly what the challenges are from the data, but with so much of the public conversation focused on housing affordability, it’s going to be surprising for residents of this community to learn how to how few rental developments are built,” Atkey said. .

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Since 2019, municipalities must, by law, conduct housing needs assessments and update them every five years.

Atkey said the province is trying to determine if enough data is being collected. Communities look at population growth to make projections for new homes, but that approach fails to see “chronic undersupply baked in,” she said.

She also asked if updates every five years made sense in such a dynamic housing market.

Gary Wilson, President and President of the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, added that what current data may not readily show is the correlation between Indigenous populations and homelessness in these communities.

There are many communities with an Indigenous overrepresentation in the homeless population, but two-thirds of all municipalities do not include the data in their assessments needed to meet the needs of the urban Indigenous population, he said. declared.

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For example, in Parksville, 29% of respondents in a 2020 homeless count identified themselves as Indigenous, while Indigenous people made up just 3% of the community’s population in the 2016 census. Duncan said 34% of respondents in a 2020 homeless count identified themselves as Indigenous, while Indigenous people made up 13% of the community’s population.

Most communities only included partial data, without the kind of information that would set goals such as how many units to build or when. Only Surrey, Kamloops, Powell River and Fort St. John attempted to quantify the number of houses that would be needed for their urban Aboriginal populations.

“It’s a missed opportunity,” Armstrong said. “Neither the province nor the vast majority of municipalities thought it was worth applying an Aboriginal housing lens to housing needs surveys. Land recognition at the start of council meetings is not a housing strategy.

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