Updates to the strategy, called B.C. Housing Matters, include a focus on increasing access to supports for seniors and low-income renters, repairing aging buildings and more co-operation with non-profits and the private sector.
“In general, we like it and we are looking forward to the details of implementation,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.
The strategy, launched in 2006, has directed about $2.5 billion to programs and infrastructure toward affordable housing.
The updated strategy, announced last week, highlighted three areas:
• Improvements on safety, affordability, healthy homes and communities. Of note is a call for a uniform building code.
• Stable housing, partly through an overhaul of the Residential Tenancy Branch services and disputes, updates to the Strata Property Act that will make crucial repairs and redevelopment of aging buildings easier, and advocating for long-term federal funding.
• An emphasis on partnerships to increase social housing, including transfers of stock to non-profits, more capital funding and redevelopment of old buildings. Some specific projects were announced, but none on the Island.
Wynn-Williams said the effort to increase partnerships throughout the strategy is positive.
“This is critical. We have been investigating the way partnerships have worked,” he said, noting the Hope Centre for aboriginal youth in Sooke as an example of government working with organizations and businesses.
“However, it is yet to be seen what the emphasis on partnership means for actual capital funding which is still an important component of ending homelessness.”
The revised strategy also includes a commitment to increase supports for individuals transferring from an institution or housing, as well as increases in the Rental Assistance Program.
Specifics about the updated strategy are yet to be detailed by Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing.
Coleman was not available to respond to questions or comment but his office did provide a statement.
“We will introduce enhancements to the Rental Assistance Program, RAP, and the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renter Program, SAFER, which offer monthly cash assistance to low-income seniors and families who live in private market rentals,” said the statement.
“The changes are still under discussion, but they will include an increase in the allowable rent threshold used to calculate benefits. Further details will be available later this year.”