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Vancouver’s Practice Of Squeezing Money From New Social Housing Is Distorting Affordability Targets, Say Operators

Vancouver’s practice of squeezing money from new social housing is distorting affordability targets, say operators

By JEN ST. DENIS for The Star Vancouver

VANCOUVER—As the city’s new mayor prepares to take office on a promise to build 25,000 affordable housing units over the next decade, non-profit housing operators are warning that a fundamental disconnect inside city hall bureaucracy is eroding the number of truly affordable units they can provide.

Vancouver’s previous council approved a plan that would see 11,300 housing units built over the next 10 years for people who make up to $50,000 a year, an income group that has become more and more precariously housed as housing prices and rent rates have spiked. A further 23,500 units — a mix of social housing, rental and home ownership — are planned for residents who make between $50,000 and $80,000.

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Social housing providers say the city’s planning department and a new housing authority, the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency, seem to be on board with that plan, and they said Vancouver stands out among municipalities for its commitment to create new social housing.

But the same social housing providers also say the city’s focus on maximizing returns, which appears to be coming from the real estate, legal and finance departments, is eroding the level of affordability they can offer for new projects.

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