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?’

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

Greater Victoria 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 affordable housing projects in 42 communites across the province. This will include 588 units 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

Just Posted

UPDATED: Man arrested on Richmond Avenue after standoff with police following ‘serious assault’

Police were called early Sunday morning following an assault in the building

Mainly cloudy skies ahead for Monday

Plus a look ahead at the week’s forecast

320 years since the ‘Big One’ doesn’t mean it’s overdue: Canada Research Chair

‘It could happen today, tomorrow or 100 years from now’

Santa, West Shore firefighters team up to fill the sleigh for the food bank

Santa makes annual visits Dec. 14, 15, 22 and 24 across the West Shore

New Stats Canada survey confirms cash value of master’s degree

Holders of master’s degrees earn up to $21,000 more than undergraduate degree holders

VIDEO: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

The three world leaders won’t let Trump sit at the cool kids’ table

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

B.C. universities post $340 million worth of surpluses thanks to international student tuition

Students call for spending as international enrolment produces huge surpluses at many universities

Conservatives urge Morneau to deliver ‘urgent’ fall economic update

Morneau says the first thing the Liberals plan to do is bring in their promised tax cut for the middle class

INFOGRAPHIC: How much money did your local university or college make last year?

B.C. university and colleges posted a combined $340 million surplus in 2018/19

B.C. creates $8.5M organization to improve safety for health care workers

Group will bring together unions, province, health care organizations

Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

Their detention is widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou

B.C. VIEWS: An engine that hums right along

First Nations are leading a new surge of investment in B.C.

Most Read