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Port Moody needs to take action on ‘grim’ housing situation: council

Port Moody's mayor says the city's housing affordability is 'grim.' Council says the time to act is now, as the city considers several major development projects.
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Even rental apartments in Port Moody now go for more than $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom according to a study of the city's housing needs and affordability.

Mayor Rob Vagramov calls Port Moody’s housing situation “grim,” and the city needs to move forward quickly on an action plan that will improve affordability and provide more options to families, young adults and seniors.

He was reacting to a consultant’s report two years in the making that examines Port Moody’s current housing stock and its needs into the future. The report is mandated by the provincial government for all cities and will help local authorities implement policies and bylaws to better meet housing requirements.

Jada Basi, a principal at CitySpaces that conducted the study, told council on Tuesday (Oct. 19) Port Moody “is a highly desirable community.” 

She added while the city already has a diverse housing supply, the increasing cost of that housing is limiting the choice residents and would-be residents have in finding a home that meets their needs and budget.

For example, Basi said, the price for a single detached home in Port Moody has increased 82 per cent since 2013, forcing many potential homeowners to seek accommodation in townhouses and condos. But even those are getting out of reach, she added, as the study determined only six per cent of condos in the city could still be deemed affordable, meaning residents are able to spend less than 30 per cent of their income on their home.

“The idea that townhouses and condos are affordable was the case before, but that has substantially decreased,” Basi said.

That’s unacceptable, said Coun. Hunter Madsen, who characterized the local housing market as “fundamentally impossible.”

“Who are we building for?” he asked. “We’re headed off a livability cliff for sure.”

Coun. Meghan Lahti pointed out it’s not just Port Moody that’s struggling with affordability.

“We’re not on an island,” she said. “We’re not different in our needs from other municipalities in Metro Vancouver.”

And while Lahti’s motion to have staff report back to council on ideas to close the affordability gap carried, she worried it might take too long, especially as the city deals with various development applications already in the works that ultimately may not meet Port Moody’s needs.

“I don’t want to be waiting a year to find out what some of those solutions are going to look like.”

City manager Tim Savoie agreed.

“We are running out of time very quickly,” he said, recommending a consultant be brought in to expedite the work.

But Coun. Diana Dilworth said the city already has the means to begin tackling the affordability issue. Armed with the knowledge gleaned from CitySpaces’ report, she said council needs to “work in collaboration with builders rather than beating them down with a stick,” adding “we’re going to get the right mix through community consultation.”

Coun. Amy Lubik said with so many cities in British Columbia trying to deal with the affordability crisis, perhaps it’s time to expand the mandate of the BC Assessment Authority to create a province-wide service that will help local governments weigh the merits of rezoning and development applications and how they might impact a community’s housing situation.

“We need an unbiased way to understand what can be achieved,” she said, as her motion to bring the idea to the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention passed.