BC Housing says “affordable housing” is a loose term where subsidized housing has more to do with a program. (File photo).

What is ‘affordable housing?’

Province aims to offer more affordable housing options to people, but the definition is complex

Vancouver Island residents often hear about affordable housing, but few have a good idea of what that means.

Even BC Housing has a hard time defining it; on its website, affordable housing is defined as “housing with rents equal, or lower than, average rates in the private market.”

While average rental rates are largely unaffordable, BC Housing regional director of operations of Vancouver Island, Heidi Hartman, explained this definition is based on delayed calculations from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation which determines what rates should be.

“The numbers from the CMHC are typically about a year behind,” Hartman said. “So, the rates are usually lower than what it actually is.”

ALSO READ: Victoria council proposes five affordable housing strategies

Still, Hartman said affordable housing is hard to define, mostly because it’s more of a loose label rather than a concrete idea.

“Affordable housing is a term where subsidized housing has more to do with a program,” said Hartman, “It’s more a definition of when housing costs aren’t more than 30 per cent of a household’s gross income.”

This means rent is determined on a sliding scale based on income, which means two neighbours living in similar units will pay different rents.

“For example, folks at Evergreen Terrace will pay 30 per cent,” Hartman said. “One person makes $24,000 per year and pays 30 per cent, and for somebody that’s making $40,000, it’ll also be 30 per cent.”

Every year BC Housing has annual income testing is done to see if this rate needs to change based on promotions, demotions or a change in assets.

ALSO READ: Premier John Horgan unveils more affordable housing in Langford

“They’d provide their pay stubs and we’d calculate the rent rate,” Hartman said.

This is similar, but different, to subsidized housing, which always sits at 30 per cent of income, but where the province interjects with further funding which allows residents receiving income assistance to pay a flat rate. This can be seen in subsidized housing units from the Cool Aid Society, Pacifica Housing and some co-operative housing complexes.

In November the province announced $492 million in funding for 42 affordable housing projects across the province, including 588 in Victoria, 85 in Saanich, 80 in Langford and 161 in Esquimalt.

READ MORE: City of Victoria to see 588 affordable housing units

Projects built under the Building BC: Community Housing Fund will reflect three different income levels.

Twenty per cent of units will be those with low incomes who need subsidization, such as seniors, people on fixed incomes or those on income assistance. The income limit will be $30,000, depending on unit size.

Fifty per cent of units will range from low-to-moderate incomes, which range from $21,000 to $95,000, with the range limited by specific location and unit size. This means the low-to-moderate income bracket would cap at $58,000 for a two-bedroom in Vancouver for example, while it would cap at $37,000 in Smithers.

Thirty per cent of units will be for middle incomes, for up to $72,000 for homes with less than two bedrooms, or up to $104,000 for homes with two bedrooms or more.

According to the 2018 Canadian Rental Housing Index, one-in-five British Columbians pay more than 50 per cent of their income on rent.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

affordable housing

Just Posted

WATCH: Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock pedals into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Volunteer LeMoine doesn’t get locks shaved but still finds a way to raise funds

Side Bay access confirmed as North Island forest service roads get a minor facelift

Remote beach route no longer ‘up in the bureaucratic air’ thanks to COVID-19 recovery funding

Vancouver Island parents say schools not appropriate voting stations

Elections B.C. says site of polling stations not yet determined, working with Dr. Henry’s office

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Duncan man at large after massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Neighbours concerned about proposed apartment complex on Island Highway

City says it’s early in the process, still, and residents will ‘absolutely’ have their concerns heard

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Lockdown quickly lifted at Nanaimo District Secondary School

NDSS was under lockdown mid-morning Friday, Sept. 25

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Most Read