Investor alert, cash cow,... think those are overblown terms for houses in East Vancouver or Kitsilano?
Those terms are in common use for single family homes being marketed in Port Coquitlam to investors as buying a home in the city is increasingly challenging for anybody without a huge nest egg or plans to invest.
Meanwhile, renters, many of whom are in older homes slated for redevelopment, are paying increasingly steeper rents and could risk losing their units when developers sell.
Port Coquitlam has focused on housing affordability in recent years, with three major rental projects in the works, encouraging infill by allowing small lot developments, taking action on predatory renovictions, establishing a transit oriented neighbourhood, and encouraging low-rise condominium development in its downtown core, among other things.
But despite these efforts, a new housing study compiled by Urban Matters, to be reviewed by council Tuesday (Feb. 8), recounts the struggle many are facing to rent, buy or stay in the city.
The study, funded by a $50,000 grant, fulfills a provincial request of municipalities to provide more housing data.
PRICED OUT OF THE CITY?
In Port Coquitlam, housing affordability is becoming a huge concern.
The following quote, an excerpt from the report, shows a typical story:
"We love Port Coquitlam. We were very fortunate to find our current residence before rental costs got ridiculous. We now can’t move because we would be doubling our rent. We just have to hope our landlord doesn’t sell."
According to the report:
- Port Coquitlam has one of the highest home ownership rates in Metro Vancouver, but the number of people who own is declining from 80 to 77 per cent (2016 figures the latest available)
- More people are renting...
- Renter households are growing faster than owner households with a growth rate of 32 per cent between 2006 and 2016
- The number of renter households increased by 1,215 — nearly three times the 12 per cent growth rate of owner households
- Rents have increased...
- Median rents were relatively stable from 2011 to 2015, before starting to rise in 2016
- Between 2011 and 2020, the overall median rent for purpose built rental units in Port Coquitlam increased by 70 per cent — from $825 to $1,400
- More renters are living in what’s called the secondary market, secondary suites or apartment units owned by others
- "As of 2016, only 11 per cent of renter households were served by purpose-built rental, meaning most renters in Port Coquitlam are in the secondary market, including rented houses, rented condominiums, or secondary suites."
"While the secondary market is an extremely important source of housing, it is often less secure over the long-term than purpose-built rental,” the report notes.
Meanwhile, a couple with children with a median income of $149,496 would have to pay $4,492 a month for a purchased home, roughly 23 per cent more than they can afford.
As well, many on lower incomes — who pay more than 30 per cent of their income on housing — are falling through the cracks.
This includes seniors on fixed incomes, whose numbers are growing, lone parent families, and newcomers, the report states.
There are an estimated 300 people at risk of homelessness in the Tri-Cities, in addition to 86 who were counted as homeless in 2020, and 292 individuals and families are waiting for subsidized housing, an 87 per cent increase since 2013.
WHERE DOES THE PROBLEM START?
You don’t have to go far to see how the housing market is changing in Port Coquitlam.
A local website of homes for sale shows how the once stable home-market is transitioning.
Of 31 single-family homes listed for sale this week on the online real estate website REW, none were under $1.1 million and many were for investment properties while others being sold had multiple units that were rented out.
Here’s what the report states:
Between 2010 and 2020, average home sale prices in PoCo grew by 60 per cent for a single family dwelling, by 71 per cent for row houses and townhouses, and by 68 per cent for apartments/condominiums.
Meanwhile, the number of affordable homes for those earning a median income dropped to 18 per cent from 46 per cent between 2013 and 2018, underscoring the affordability problem for those dreaming to own a home in Port Coquitlam.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
The housing study concluded that, to meet the needs of PoCo’s population, an additional 5,500 dwellings (or 550 a year) are needed over the next 10 years.
- 1,790 new dwellings will be needed for renters
- 3,740 for owners
The current pace of development in PoCo, according to the report, is approximately 300 dwelling units per year — substantially below the projected need.
But there are challenges, because while a land capacity analysis found these additional units can be accommodated under existing OCP designations at full build out, there are many constraints, including homeowner desire to develop or redevelop, financial feasibility of a project, and contextual factors, such as land assembly.
Port Coquitlam council is expected to review the housing study on Tuesday and staff are expect to follow up with recommendations.
You can click here to watch the 2 p.m. regular public meeting virtually.
Among the report's suggestions for the city are the following:
- Adopting a strata conversion policy, a rental replacement policy and/or residential rental tenure zoning
- Incentives for development of new rental buildings including expedited processing times and reductions in parking requirements near major transit areas
- Review and update the density bonus and inclusionary zoning policies
- Expand opportunities for row house development and small lots
- Consider pre-zoning parcels for higher density in strategic locations
- Consider opportunities to allow additional forms of housing such as lock-off suites in townhouses, secondary suites in duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes
- Identify areas to intensify with diverse and varied housing development, such as a those with aging housing stock
- Create partnerships with other levels of government to develop lands for supportive and affordable housing