Credit to Author: Jennifer Saltman| Date: Sat, 07 Sep 2019 23:57:02 +0000
In a region where affordable housing can be nearly impossible to find, Metro Vancouver is examining the prospect of raising property taxes by about $4 per household to fund construction of new affordable units.
The tax requisition, which could bring in $4 million per year, would allow the regional district’s non-profit housing corporation to partner with member municipalities to build housing on publicly owned vacant land.
“With this tax requisition, we can plan for the future and we can actually deliver it,” said Ravi Chhina, Metro Vancouver’s general manager of parks and housing services.
Members of Metro Vancouver’s housing committee will discuss the requisition during a meeting this Wednesday.
Metro’s housing portfolio includes 49 sites in 11 municipalities — about 3,400 units. The corporation uses rents, grant funding and property taxes to pay for operation and maintenance of those sites, along with redevelopment. The majority of the housing was constructed in the 1970s and 1980s.
The rents for about 30 per cent of Metro’s units are based on tenant incomes, where tenants pay no more than 30 per cent of their gross income for rent. The rest are rented at 10 to 20 per cent below the rates of units in the surrounding area.
A new annual requisition of $4 million per year, or about $4 per household, could pay for at least 50 new units — or one four-storey apartment building — annually on bare municipal land. The figure is based on the housing corporation’s mix of rental income, and current construction costs and interest rates.
Because the majority of apartments in Metro’s housing portfolio have two to three bedrooms, Chhina said 50 new units could translate into homes for up to 1,500 people each year. He said there is also potential to leverage the money from the requisition to partner with the provincial and federal governments to construct even more units.
As an alternative, staff suggested the board could phase in the tax increase over three years, beginning with $2 million in 2020 and reaching $4 million by 2022.
The average cost for all Metro Vancouver services in 2019 was $534 per household.
This would not be the first time the regional district has used a tax requisition to pay for affordable housing. In 2017, it approved $1 million per year to go toward leveraging existing money to attract provincial and federal funding to support redevelopment.
The first infusion of funding arrived in 2018, and has been the catalyst for redeveloping three sites. At Heather Place in Vancouver, 86 older units are being replaced with 230 new ones. Twenty-four units at Kingston Gardens in Surrey are being replaced with 85 new ones. In Port Coquitlam, two old single-family homes are being replaced with 50 units.
Housing committee chair Mike Hurley, who is the mayor of Burnaby, said the board of directors asked staff to look at ways to increase the affordable housing stock managed by Metro Vancouver. He said the requisition is just one possibility.
Hurley said Burnaby would be interested in partnering with Metro to make use of vacant land.
“I think Metro has been very, very successful at managing a number of projects, and so certainly they would be one of the ones we would look to to manage our buildings because they’ve got such a successful track record of doing so,” Hurley said. “I think they’ve done an amazing job at their properties.”
Hurley said he’s looking forward to the discussion that will take place at this week’s committee meeting, and at the subsequent board meeting if the recommendation goes forward. If it makes it past the board, the requisition would be up for discussion during the budgeting process this fall.
“I don’t like to make decisions until I’ve heard everyone’s point of view, and we’ll certainly hear many of those on Wednesday, I’m sure,” Hurley said. “There’s a long way to go yet.”
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