BY KENT SPENCER, THE PROVINCE
Vancouver Coun. George Affleck wants provincial and federal governments to take the lead in providing affordable rental housing.
Vancouver's ambitious plan to create 1,100 affordable housing units makes it easier for senior governments to beg off their own duties, says an opposition councillor.
"We're letting the federal and provincial governments off the hook. They have traditionally been the lead players in affordable housing," says NPA Coun. George Affleck.
A staff report going to council on Tuesday says $42 million should be put aside to create 1,100 units of non-market rental housing over the next three years. Up to $33.5 million would be spent on land acquisitions.
The figures are part of a $702-million capital plan for 2012-14 that also seeks to borrow $95 million, subject to council's approval.
Affleck believes the Vision Vancouver majority wants to take the lead in providing affordable housing, even though it is technically not a municipal responsibility.
"Vancouver is taking the stress from senior governments who should be trying to find their own solutions," he says.
Although specific plans have not been announced, Affleck says two city-owned lots east of the Granville Bridge on Pacific Boulevard, are the type that could be considered.
Officials at the Urban Development Institute, representing the industry's views, have concerns about municipal dollars competing with the private sector for scarce resources such as land, construction crews and market share.
UDI director Maureen Enser says margins are tight so the viability of some projects might be affected.
"Zoning for affordability affects the supply of market housing," Enser says. "Hopefully, council will achieve a balance."
The number of buildings built with municipal assistance will constitute about 12 per cent of the annual residential construction in the city.
Vision Coun. Raymond Louie, who chairs the finance committee, says council wants to "leverage" funding from other sources.
"We will use city assets, money or land," he says.
Although Louie's preference is for partnerships with other levels of government, he admits that it's challenging getting everyone to take part.
"The federal government has pulled out substantially from the equation," he says.
Vancouver will lobby federal Finance Minister Joe Flaherty at a meeting this week.
Louie claims the city's taxpayer-funded presence in the marketplace, which will add hundreds of units to the mix, won't adversely affect private interests.
"We're not competing with that sector at all. They're building $800,000 units. People using the affordable housing won't have the income to support that amount," he says.
© Copyright (c) The Province