BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay said the HousingHub seeks to boost the supply of affordable housing for British Columbians. (Caitlin Clow - Kelowna Capital News)

BC Housing initiative to boost affordable housing in Okanagan

HousingHub plan targets ‘missing middle’ with affordable rentals: CEO Shayne Ramsay

The HousingHub by BC Housing seeks to increase the supply of affordable housing for all British Columbians.

BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay said it is an initative that seeks innovative partnerships with local housing organizations to create affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities for people across the spectrum of housing needs, with a focus on the middle class.

READ MORE: Supportive housing first step to healing: BC Housing CEO

“We work across the housing spectrum, not just some of the developments you’ve seen in the news lately,” Ramsay said during the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce luncheon on July 23. “But also focusing our efforts on what has often been called the missing middle or work-force type housing.”

Middle income British Columbains are considered to be households earning an average of $70,000 to $150,000 depending on the community.

In Kelowna, one project is currently under construction on Clement Avenue on a former packinghouse site. The PC Urban project is designed to be accessible by the middle class.

“In this particular one on Clement, the market rents are affordable to households earning between $50,000 and $80,000,” Ramsay said.

The two, six-storey buildings will offer around 160 rental homes with one-bedroom apartments starting at $1,300 a month. The price for a two-bedroom unit is projected to be around $1,780 a month.

READ MORE: Developer breaks ground on Kelowna rental housing project

Through the HousingHub, PC Urban Properties CEO Brent Sawchyn said the project was made possible.

At the local level, Sawchyn said city council accommodated the project by approving it without requiring the inclusion of underground parking.

“The rents we would have had to charge would have had to have been much higher to offset the cost,” he said at the groundbreaking in May.

That same month, Kelowna was dubbed the seventh most expensive rental market in Canada with the average prices of a one-bedroom unit ringing in at $1,280 or $1,700 for a two-bedroom.

READ MORE: Kelowna 7th most expensive rental market in Canada

READ MORE: City of Kelowna defeats short-term rentals ‘for now’

BC Housing’s Ramsay said the government cannot spend its way out the housing crisis, however.

“It needs to seek innovative partnerships with partners across the spectrum,” he said. “In particular, local governments and the private sector (in order) to do things like shorten the approval process.”

Rezonings, for instance, can take upwards of a few years in Vancouver, Ramsay said. He noted the slow nature of processing doesn’t reflect a government managing a crisis effectively.

The HousingHub also seeks to protect existing housing, Ramsay said.

“One of the most important initiatives that was introduced was a significant fund to protect the existing stock of social housing that exists across the province,” he said. “It’s housing that we can’t lose. It’s our cheapest form of housing and making investments to ensure that lasts into the future is as important as building new forms of affordable housing.”

The hub provides low-cost financing to offset costs of new projects to ensure rental units are kept below market value. BC Housing staff offers expertise to assist in the planning and development process, offers access to pre-development funding and aids in project co-ordination.

By increasing the supply of affordable housing for rent, the HousingHub, in partnership with all levels of government, can improve the ability of renters to move into homeownership and in turn freeing up rental stock for new residents.


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@kelownacapnews.com

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