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Too little cheap housing sending Port Coquitlam residents away, says advocate, as city launches needs survey

Port Coquitlam is seeking public input for a Housing Needs Report that will provide a detailed picture of current needs, the existing housing supply and what's needed for the future; the CEO of Atira says such studies are needed but should be acted upon quickly
The Alex in Port Coquitlam
The Alex, a non-profit housing complex for woman-headed households, is under construction in Port Coquitlam. Demand for this kind of housing is escalating, says advocate.

With $1,500 rents for one-bedroom apartments and single family homes costing $1.2 million or more, Port Coquitlam is not the affordable housing enclave it may once have been.

And while the city has a relatively large stock of affordable housing complexes — at least nine of which are considered family-oriented — a broader range of housing at differing rent or purchase price points may be needed.

To find out what kind of housing Port Coquitlam residents need, the city is embarking on a housing study and is asking people to contribute their input via a survey before June 14, 2021.

But while many might wonder why such a study is being conducted, one affordable housing provider says a report on the city’s housing needs can’t come soon enough.

“While we wait, people are homeless,” says Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women's Resource Society and Atira Property Management.

Atira operates numerous affordable housing projects, including The Alex in Port Coquitlam, which will offer 83 units at deeply subsidized or below-market rates for women-headed households.

Since the project launched a few years ago, Atira has been inundated by calls and queries from service groups and individuals looking for a suite.

It will be the fall before Atira can start taking names for the project still a year away, but Abbott said the sheer number of inquiries suggests a need for affordable housing.


She said the city may be surprised at the level of “deep core need,” among people on extreme low incomes who are moving to Vancouver’s downtown east side to find a place they can afford.

“I think municipalities need to have a look at what’s offered in their communities and allow folks who grew up in Maple Ridge, Port Coquitlam and Surrey to stay in their city.”

She also encourages the city to act quickly on the information it receives because costs of construction are rising quickly, which could pose additional challenges to building more homes in the coming months to years.

The Alex, under construction at the corner of Flint Street and Prairie Avenue, isn’t affected by skyrocketing lumber prices because it’s already well underway, but Abbott expects future projects will be and could affect the creation of new affordable housing.

There is also the issue of the missing middle housing, ground-oriented housing on small lots or more density in single family neigbourhoods, that Port Coquitlam has tried to address with its Housing Action Plan but may require a second look with public input.

The survey, online now, takes up to 15 minutes to complete, and asks respondents about their housing experience and needs, including their preferred types of housing and barriers in finding or maintaining housing. 


The goal of the survey, according to a city news release, is to help staff create a Housing Needs Report for council this fall that will “provide a detailed picture of existing housing supply, current and future housing needs, challenges and opportunities.”

Communities across B.C. are conducting similar housing needs assessments at the province’s behest, with Union of BC Municipalities funding support to pay for the assistance of a consultant.  

In addition to the survey, Port Coquitlam will conduct focus groups and other targeted engagement to collect feedback from stakeholders such as housing and service providers, large employers, and developers.

According to the city, the report will inform a review of the city’s rental policies and ground-oriented housing options, as well as the update to the Official Community Plan, which guides future development and land use.

Meanwhile, the city adds it has already implemented a number of housing milestones, including: 

• 450 new affordable housing units in the works;

• the Affordable and Family Friendly Housing Policy to achieve non-market rental housing in large developments, establish minimum family-oriented unit requirements to ensure new multifamily development includes options for families;

• and adopting a Housing Action Plan along with regulation and policy changes to permit smaller lot sizes and homes (including coach houses).