Increasing Housing Diversity
A healthy community has a diverse spectrum of housing types to accommodate residents of all ages, incomes, abilities and household make-up. A lack of housing choice impacts affordability levels, which can contribute to economic imbalance within the community and to worsening transportation and local business sustainability, as employees are forced to travel between their jobs and homes they can afford.
All this is recognized in the OCP, which has a key objective to increase housing choices to meet the diverse needs of residents of all ages and incomes. Multi-family and rental housing has been increased through revitalization and mixed use development in the designated town and village centres, but not without disruption to current residents.
This has raised questions ranging from timing of projects to reduce construction impact, to how to retain older, less expensive housing, to what we mean by affordable and social housing and to how it should be provided.
The Rental and Affordable Housing Strategy, adopted in November 2016, focuses the OCP’s broad objective into six goals aimed at filling the gaps in housing supply for low and moderate income households in the District, where housing remains predominantly single family and owner-occupied. Although senior levels of government have re-entered the housing field with funding and initiatives to support affordability, there is heavy regional competition for this funding, as other municipalities also work to better define and meet their housing needs.
While we have reached consensus that more affordable and more rental housing is needed, we have important decisions to make as a Council about:
- How to describe affordability and social housing
- Whether to target specific populations and demographics
- Where affordable housing should be located
- How to leverage District land, and which land specifically, to attract funders and incent developers to provide affordable housing
- Whether to use development tools like density bonus or community amenity contributions to produce more of the housing we lack
Agreeing on definitions and targeted objectives is necessary to enable further decisions about specific projects in specific locations, whether on District land or in private developments.
What we want to achieve
We recognize the challenges inherent in trying to sustain the attributes that make the District a special place to live, work and enjoy, while making decisions for a healthy and resilient future.
People here today, in all life stages and circumstances, along with future citizens who will contribute to the community, need places to live. The most important housing outcomes for us are to increase the diversity of housing options in the District and to make decisions that balance future housing needs with current needs.
The actions we are going to take
Our critical task at this time is to achieve consensus and set direction on specific priority projects that deliver rental housing for low and moderate income earners, and those in need of social housing, such as persons with disabilities, youth, seniors, and the homeless.
A range of actions to support our decision making in this regard will take precedence in the Corporate Plan, including, for example:
- Increasing the number of social and affordable housing units to fill gaps in the low to moderate income end of the housing continuum
- Increasing housing diversity
- Assessing District land available and its suitability for various housing forms
- Balancing environmental and housing needs