Not enough rental units, deacon tells Coquitlam council
A deacon from St. Laurence Anglican Church says he is concerned about a lack of affordable housing in Coquitlam and wants the city to create incentives for developers to build more rental units.
Steve Bailey, who is also a member of the Tri-Cities Ministerial Association, told city council on Monday that with new developments being built around Evergreen Line stations — particularly in Burquitlam — many affordable housing units are being replaced with expensive condominiums and townhouses that current residents can’t afford.
“We would like council to give incentives to encourage mixed housing and healthy neighbourhoods,” he told councillors. “We urge Coquitlam to take a lead in this area.”
Bailey commended developer Blue Sky Properties for including 57 new rental units in its Burquitlam development but said there is still a loss of 45 units in the neighbourhood — and he believes the rents will be higher than current rates.
He said the city has done good work in housing the homeless with its commitment to the cold/wet weather mat program and the construction of a homeless shelter at 3030 Gordon Ave. but more consideration needs to be given to low-income people who may not be homeless, Bailey added.
Most councillors were sympathetic to his concerns.
Mayor Richard Stewart said that while the city is currently working on an affordable housing strategy, municipal governments are limited in what they can do when its comes to such issues.
“Local government is challenged because we don’t have the tools,” he said. “The city works with the development community when it can… but it really does require that senior levels of government get involved.”
Many of the apartments that currently house residents in the Burquitlam area were built 25 to 40 years ago, when the federal government had a fund to subsidize rental housing, said Coun. Mae Reid. A similar program at the provincial or federal level would go a long way toward increasing the rental stock in the community, she said.
But Coun. Chris Wilson said cities have been waiting for help from higher levels of government for a long time and noted there are things local governments can do, for example mandating a percentage of all units built in the municipality be dedicated as rental housing.
“That is a tool that cities have,” he said. “If developers would build 10 to 20 units and sprinkle them around a development, they would have no problems.”