Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Questions from preliminary affordable housing prsentation:

Q: Why can't we encourage developers and contractors to build smaller more affordable single family hmoes on smaller lots? Could we not require them to make a portion of their developments affordable and give some incentive to developers to do this?

A:The short answer to this question is yes we can. The longer version is that this exact sort of thing is working in the city of Langford and is quite possible if we want to do it. This pdf on the internet goes into more detail about the Langford approach http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/code/upload/Langford_BC_eng.pdf

Q: A specific question was asked about who will be targerted in our project and the questioner was concerned that our affordable housing project is not reaching all the different demographic populations that need affordable housing in Salmon Arm?

A: We realize that the housing issue is quite large and complex in any community that is experiencing rapid rising real estate prices and a hot economy, with Salmon Arm being no exception. Our target group is first time home buyers trying to get into the market and providing affordable housing options to that young brain trust that Salmon Arm needs to retain in order to keep our social and economic situation prospering. We realize that there are other affordable housing issues and groups of people that will need affordable solutions, such as Seniors. We have researched other types of models and it is our goal that they will be picked up in the future.

Q: How does the Harwood projects manage the waitlist for the next purchasers?

A: Each individual project and their associated non-profit housing society board of directors decides on the rules. Our 'local' example in Chase operates on a first come first serve basis with no restrictions on income level or who could live there. Chase's project has a maximum of 20 people on the waiting list because otherwise people down the list would have to wait an unrealistic amount of time to get a unit. The seniors that live in Chase's complex enjoy living there. This leads to a very low turnover rate.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Municipal policy options to promote affordable housing

There are many different ways in which Municipalities in British Columbia can promote affordable housing through their policy choices. I will list the options in no particular order because each option's effectiveness depends on the settings on which it is implemented on. Please feel free to comment on which policy option or number of policies Salmon Arm should implement.

1.Define Attainable Housing:

Attainable housing is defined as providing housing for the core housing need.
Households are in the core housing need if they cannot find a place to live that is in reasonably good condition and big enough for their household without spending more than 30% of their gross income. One appropriate benchmark for affordability would be to use 30% of the median household income, $38,956 (using census 2001 data), therefore housing costs should not exceed $975 dollars per month.

2.Affordable housing policy:

The city collaborates with developers to establish a minimum percentage (for ex.10 to 25% ) of units to be provided in a residential development that are attainable to households defined by the policy in recommendation #1 or another type of attainable policy. For example the Municipality of Langford, approx 22,000 people, is addressing the challenge of affordable housing by offering new houses to qualified residents for $150,000., compared to market value of about $290,000.
Langford allows builders to increase the density in return for building affordable homes. Under its new policy every rezoning of 10 or more single-family residential lots has to have a ‘small lot/small house affordable lot’ measuring approximately 300 square meters. Developers are then required to build one affordable housing unit (approx 83-91 square meters). The finished house is then offered to buyers selected by the Langford Affordable Housing Committee.
Unlike subsidized housing, which simply augments rent for low-income applicants, these houses are registered and owned by the residents. A housing agreement is registered on the title of each house that restricts the resale of the houses until after 25 years, when the house can be sold at market value.

3.Secondary Suite Amendments:

Amend secondary suite regulations to increase the maximum size of 645 sq/ft to include a one or two bedroom unit and to remove the owner occupancy requirements.

4.Small Lot Subdivisions:

Allow small lot zoning to create more affordable housing ownership opportunities. Allow a minimum lot size of 260 m^2 and a minimum width of 10m.

5.Reduce/waive Development Cost Charges (DCC):

Local governments are allow to reduce/waive DCCs however our local government would have to amend the bylaw to allow a non-profit housing society to develop affordable and attainable housing to do this. Every cost of a new development gets passed on to the home buyer therefore if we reduce the DCCs then our affordable housing projects will be more attainable to more people.

6.Priority processing attainable housing developments:

Decreasing the length of approval times reduces the cost of residential development and therefore, reduces housing costs. This policy is very effective in municipalities that have a slow approval process or a large backlog however Salmon Arm relatively is fast at its approval process.

7.Permissive Property Tax Exemption Policy:

Council may choose to grant property tax exemption to non-profit organizations. The amount of the exemption can be 100% of municipal share of the property tax due annually up to a maximum of 10 years. The exemption can be available to projects that include a pre determined percentage of attainable housing units (10%-25%). A developer who provides attainable/ afforadable units must enter into a housing agreement with the city to qualify for the tax exemption. The housing agreement will set out the maximum rents/prices that can be charged over the duration of the tax exemption.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Expectations for affordable housing

What do you think of when you hear the word affordable housing? Do you think of homeless shelters or government subsidized housing? Affordable housing can mean different things to different people depending on your point of view (and your income). One must be careful with the use of the term affordable housing because it can be associated with negative social connotations.

What is the common definition of affordability? The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) common definition is: "The cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income. Housing which costs less than this is considered affordable. However, consumers, housing providers and advocacy organizations tend to use a broader definition of affordability." This can apply to rent or ownership projects.

Do people with mortgages in Salmon Arm actually meet this benchmark for affordability in either their mortgage payments/property taxes or rents?

What type of affordable housing do people expect to live in? For a first time home buyer just entering the market, do people expect to live in a 1,500 sq ft single family dwelling, a 1,000 sq ft dwelling, a small townhouse, a two bedroom apartment type home, etc? Please feel free to discuss what type of housing in today's market a first time home buyer should expect to live.