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‘Affordable housing’ aim of city initiatives
Unprecedented growth in Coquitlam — and the high cost of living — has prompted the city to take another look at its housing affordability plan.
Last week, city council voted to update the five-year-old strategy, saying residents are struggling to make ends meet with the expensive land prices.
And property values will likely soar even more over the next few years as the city gets ready for the Evergreen Line, which is scheduled to open by the summer of 2016, running from Lougheed Town Centre in Burnaby to Coquitlam City Centre.
Coquitlam councillors say they are especially conscious of the rental housing stock in Burquitlam, where many low-income families live. That area, which will have an Evergreen Line station, is primed for redevelopment.
City planners say since the housing affordability strategy was adopted, a number of initiatives in that document have wrapped up or are nearing completion, including construction of the YWCA transitional housing units for single moms and their kids at 528 Como Lake Ave. and planning of a homeless shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave.
As well, since 2007, the city has adopted an Affordability Housing Reserve Fund, a Mobile Home Park Redevelopment Tenant Assistance Policy, added density bonusing to the C-4 zone (allowing developers to pay a fee when they want to make variances) and implemented a Housing Choices policy, where owners of large residential lots can build more homes on their land.
City staff say they plan to update the housing affordability strategy in two phases: the first part will review the city’s role and potential partnerships with senior levels of government, developers and other stakeholders; that report is due early next year. The second phase will include public input.
The update comes as the city of Vancouver launches its controversial housing affordability plan, calling for narrower streets to densify. Among the new policies its city council passed are allowing for 100% rental buildings, homes that are least 20% below market value and six-storey townhouses on arterial roads within 500 m of a shopping district or neighbourhood core.
Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam’s general manager of planning and development, told Coquitlam council at its meeting last week that developers building housing close to the Evergreen Line are now given the city’s Transit-Oriented Development Strategy (TDS), which council adopted in part this summer.
The TDS is a planning guide for zoning, amenities, parking and rental units, among other things, close to Coquitlam’s four Evergreen stations: Burquitlam, Coquitlam Central, Lincoln Station and Douglas College.
And McIntyre said developers such as Bosa and Concert Properties have already come forward with innovative rental housing options for their upcoming projects.
Still, some councillors bristled at the need for municipal governments to take on housing affordability. Coun. Mae Reid said the federal and provincial governments need to step and offer housing solutions.
“We can’t be all things to all people,” Reid said. “We are core services like roads, police, fire and recreation.”
Coun. Brent Asmundson said the city’s role is limited, although it can set direction for developers in providing affordable housing.
And Coun. Craig Hodge said the city should focus more on “affordable living.”
“It’s about the people who live here today can continue to live here,” he said, adding, “[Children] should be able to find a place in the city where they grew up.”
“Affordable housing isn’t the object. Affordable living is the object,” Coun. Neal Nicholson echoed, noting the city needs to offer a variety of housing for people at every stage of their lives.