B.C. to spend $1.9B on rental housing over next decade

Victoria’s mayor hopes that the province’s $1.9-billion commitment to build 14,000 rental homes in B.C. over the next decade will provide new housing stock for Greater Victoria.

“I think there’s a really good opportunity in this region to get a good portion of this money to get housing built,” Lisa Helps said in response to Premier John Horgan’s funding announcement in Vic West on Wednesday.

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Funding for the new rental units will benefit “the missing middle” — working families and seniors who are struggling to find rental housing they can afford, Helps said.

Horgan said the funding will provide “a systematic and methodical plan to ensure we’re addressing the needs of middle-income families, people who are homeless or struggling to make ends meet.”

The province will partner with municipalities, non-profit agencies and housing co-operatives to make sure new rental home are built where they are needed most, he said.

The first $335 million “goes out the door now,” Horgan said, with a goal of seeing the first completed projects within the next two years. B.C. Housing is issuing requests for proposals to identify which projects will be funded first. Projects will be given priority based on the impact new affordable rental units would have on the community.

Dean Fortin, executive director of Pacifica Housing, said the funding could benefit affordable housing projects that are in the pipeline across the Island.

“We have a variety of projects we’re currently working on and we’re very excited about this. Now we have confirmation on where the funding is going to come,” Fortin said. “So we can take them from the drawing boards and put them into play.”

Fortin sees potential funding for the second phase of the Oak Park development on Goldstream Avenue in Langford, which will add 83 units to the 73 rental apartments and 12 townhouses currently under construction.

“We see providing housing as a moral issue, as much as it’s an economic one,” Fortin said.

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said she wants to see two- and three-bedroom rental units that are suitable for families, who often find it the hardest to find affordable homes.

“This new initiative will help us address the critical shortage of rental supply in British Columbia,” Robinson said.

She said she’s looking forward to seeing more affordable rental buildings like Wilson’s Walk, the Pacifica Housing-run building that was a backdrop for Wednesday’s announcement.

To be eligible for government funding, rental projects must reserve half of the units for people with low-to-moderate incomes ($21,000 to $95,000 annually, depending on community) and 20 per cent for low-income households and people on income assistance.

The funds are part of the $7 billion the government put aside for housing in the 2018 budget.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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