Affordability an issue in Port Coquitlam: mayor

The call for cheaper housing in Port Coquitlam is growing after city council this week shined a light on wages and real estate.

The call for cheaper housing in Port Coquitlam is growing after city council this week shined a light on wages and real estate.

At two separate meetings Monday, council talked about the cost of living locally and the need to lift PoCo residents out of poverty.

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The first discussion came as the finance committee unanimously backed a plan for the city to become a certified Living Wage employer.

Council rejected a "Made-in-PoCo" Living Wage — an hourly rate that would have been slightly less than the rest of Metro Vancouver — after learning the cost to rent a three-bedroom condo in PoCo was $225 higher than in Vancouver because of the lack of affordable housing here.

As well, transportation costs are also higher in the suburb.

Deanna Ogle of the Living Wage for Families Campaign applauded council for turning down the Made-in-PoCo Living Wage as most residents struggle to make ends meet on the Metro Vancouver $20.68 rate.

Mayor Greg Moore said council has to find ways to make PoCo livable. With the bad transit connections, many residents are forced to buy a car; that bill, plus the cost of housing and childcare, adds up, Moore said.

PoCo's Living Wage policy is due to be implemented in time for the 2017 budget — a move that will cost an extra $145,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the topic of affordable housing also came up Monday night during a debate on the impact of foreign investment on housing.

Coun. Brad West said the price of homes is unreachable with the number of international buyers snapping up Metro Vancouver lots.

Moore said while he's not convinced foreign ownership is solely to blame for the hot housing crunch, there's a need for a balanced market.

The mayor cited a study indicating Metro Vancouver has the lowest percentage of millennials out of 14 North American metropolitan areas.

"It's because of the housing prices," he said. "That has a massive impact on our economy. If they can't afford to live here then we have got some issues."

Moore said he'd like to see the province impose a 2% foreign investment tax, of which the proceeds would go into building affordable stock.

Council also sent back West's resolution to the smart growth committee he chairs to refine the language that would call on the provincial government for direct measures to mitigate foreign investment.

Moore said both the federal and provincial governments are already studying the issue while Coun. Darrell Penner also noted that Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.

jwarren@tricitynews.com


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Typical monthly costs for a family, based on the 2015 Metro Vancouver Living Wage rate of $20.68:

• Housing (rent, utilities, insurance) $1,573
• Childcare $1,324
• Food $783
• Other $734
• Transportation $516
• Two-weeks pay/year for contingency $241
• Clothing $190
• MSP $144
• Health expenses $139
• Parent education $90
Total: $5,737

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