You don’t build affordable rental housing on hopes and dreams.
Money, incentives and opportunity are driving the next generation of affordable rental units in a region where construction of non-market housing has languished for decades.
At least that’s the conclusion drawn as not one but three new non-market rental projects are set to break ground in the coming months in Coquitlam, backstopped by a combination of provincial funds, money from the city’s affordable housing reserve and incentives, such as reduced parking and higher density, that make the financial numbers work.
“This is really showing I think — recognizing these are the only projects in the Tri-Cities — the strength of our Housing Affordability Strategy with a number of incentives to encourage rental and non market,” said Andrew Merrill, Coquitlam’s manager of community planning. “They [the proponents] were able to capitalize on our incentives to go to the province and get funding to really help families.”
Of the three projects to receive provincial funding this week, the furthest along is the Concert Properties rental project that will see the construction of 100 affordable units in a 200-unit tower, with rents tied to income for for seniors, families and people with disabilities. The remaining units will be rented at market rates.
Concert Properties, which has a non-profit management arm, will get $10 million in provincial funding to build the units in a tower on 551 Emerson St. (formerly Burquitlam Park), next to the new YMCA.
“The land was originally ours and we will look at reduced parking rates, a potential reduced amenity standard, given that the Y is right there and as well Concert has applied for $3.86 million, from the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund,” Merrill noted.
Fourth reading for the project and issuance of a development permit is expected early next year, allowing Concert to apply for a building permit to start construction.
Across the city, close to the SkyTrain line, two more affordable housing projects are planned with provincial funds and support from the city of Coquitlam.
At 2905 Glen Dr., the Community Land Trust, the real estate arm of the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C., will receive $13.1 million to build 131 units for families at the site of the Hoy Creek Housing Co-op.
“This is great that they now have the funding to replace the co-op with a modern building and give those residents much more security of tenure,” said Merrill, who said the city hasn’t been asked for funding from the affordable housing reserve for the project but is willing to work with the co-op to get the project realized.
Not far away, at 3100 Ozada Ave., the Affordable Housing Societies has received $7 million to build 70 units of affordable housing in an apartment building on side of the site, which has a number of rental townhomes on the property.
Merrill said the location for additional non-market rental units is perfect because the site is close to the Evergreen Extension, and while the builder hasn’t applied for money from the city’s affordable housing reserve, made up of funds from density bonuses from new construction over the years, the project would certainly be considered.
In addition to reduced parking, and increased density, the city will look at providing grants to cover development permit fees and development cost charges, Merrill said.
“The city wants to partner in these projects and ensure they become a reality,” he said.
In all, the city has 4,000 purpose-built rental units in the works, approximately a quarter of which are non-market rental, although some are in the very early stages and are dependent on senior government funding, such as money from BC Housing and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Still, Merrill is optimistic that through focused efforts, including incentives, and cooperation between governments, Coquitlam could see a rental revival in the next five to 10 years.
“We’ve got from the cities’ point of view a little over 4,000 purpose-built rental units working their way through the pipeline and that’s a 10-fold increase from where we were before we passed the affordable housing strategy.”