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Civic candidates to go to school on housing issues

Educating Tri-City civic candidates about homelessness and the need for more affordable housing is the goal of a briefing session next week in Port Coquitlam.

Educating Tri-City civic candidates about homelessness and the need for more affordable housing is the goal of a briefing session next week in Port Coquitlam.

The Society for Community Development and the Tri-Cities Homelessness Task Force will be hosting the event Oct. 22 in the hopes that candidates incorporate the issues in their platforms for the upcoming civic election.

"This is information for the candidates to consider," said SCD chair Cathy Burpee, "We will not be polling them at the end."

Candidates will, however, be asked to think of three actions they might take to improve affordable housing options if they are elected.

"The municipalities all have tools they can use to promote affordable housing," Burpee said, noting that cities need a range of housing, from subsidized rental apartments to single family homes. Shortages along the continuum - such as too few market rental apartments or not enough subsidized rental housing - will mean people can't move up while others might be at risk of losing their homes altogether.

"If there are housing jams, there is no movement," Burpee explained.

Candidates will be asked to consider issues such as the home ownership affordability gap and candidates will also find out more about the causes of homelessness, which Burpee said isn't all created by addiction and poor choices. People also become homeless when their community lacks housing options, she said.

While the number of homeless people is dropping, Burpee said the issue continues to be important because many young people who grew up in the area can't afford to live here and people struggling with poverty are also having a hard time finding a place to live at an affordable price.

During the last municipal election in 2008, 45 candidates attended a similar session and Burpee said she hopes similar numbers of candidates attend this time.

The press and the public are not invited to the event because it's for information sharing only.

The All-Candidates Briefing Session on Homelessness and Housing will be held Saturday, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Outlet at Leigh Square, 1100-2253 Leigh Square Pl., PoCo. Candidates' attendance can be confirmed by emailing cburpee@shaw.ca.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com