Affordable Housing Financial Contribution Service FAQ

I don’t own property. Can I vote on these two proposed services?

All eligible voters in the four municipalities and nine electoral areas can vote. Voting is not restricted to property owners.

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing is housing that people can afford, that costs no more than 30% of a family’s income (including hydro and other basic utilities). Affordable housing can be everything from apartment rentals to home ownership. For more information about the basic definition of affordable housing, see the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s definition at: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/inpr/afhoce/afhoce_021.cfm 

There is a spectrum of housing possibilities for affordable housing, including market housing (rental or ownership), non-market housing which is subsidized or supportive, and emergency shelters for temporary accommodation of people who are in need of immediate shelter.

Cowichan examples:

Market housing:

  • Chemainus Gardens, which offers small-scale homes for sale
  • The Station (in Duncan), which offers bachelor apartments for rent

Non-market housing:

  • TS'I'TS'UWATUL LELUM, which offers culturally sensitive seniors supportive housing
  • Clements Centre Home Sharing and group residential services, which offers housing for adults with developmental disabilities

Emergency shelters/temporary housing:

  • Somenos House, operated by the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society
  • Warmland House, operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Cowichan Branch

What is a financial contribution service?

A financial contribution service provides funds to an organization in the community to do the specific work of the service. This is different from the CVRD establishing a function, in which the CVRD itself would do the work.

What is being proposed is a financial contribution service in support of affordable housing, by providing funds to the Cowichan Housing Association to do the work. This approach is seen as being the most cost-effective and the most relevant to the community because the Cowichan Housing Association, as a not-for-profit society:

  • Can make use of volunteer assistance in the delivery of programs;
  • Is able to leverage additional funds from many sources beyond what would be available to a local government;
  • Has better connections with community-based organizations which are also working on housing issues;
  • Will have lower overhead costs.

Why is an affordable housing financial service needed?

The lack of affordable housing affects (almost) everybody in the CVRD, whether directly or indirectly. The ability to access affordable housing is important for so many reasons - a lack of housing has implications for the health, social and economic well-being of our communities.

In our region, rising housing costs are far exceeding increases in people’s incomes. Many working people are having trouble finding housing that they can afford. This affects professionals new to the area, as well as low wage workers, young families trying to enter the housing market, seniors on fixed incomes, and many others. For example: Between 2016 and 2018, the average sales price for a single family home in North Cowichan increased from $393,185 to $462,563, an increase of over 18%. For a family earning the median income, with a 10% down payment, the maximum purchase price for a home would be $380,320.

Not nearly everybody has the option of buying their home, so they need rental options. The Canadian Rental Index ranks the Municipality of North Cowichan at 52nd and the City of Duncan at 64th out of 72 municipalities ranked in the province. The overall Index score escalated from Poor in 2016 to Severe in 2017 for the general health of the rental housing market in both areas. (Source: http://rentalhousingindex.ca/)

To successfully secure affordable housing funding, local government involvement, support and financial investment is critically important. Both the federal and the provincial governments, with their recent housing announcements, indicated that they would work with jurisdictions that had “skin in the game.” This service will assist with leveraging funding from senior levels of government to build more affordable housing in the region. Estimates are that the Rental housing demand in the Cowichan Region is expected to continue to increase and by 2021, the Region will require an additional 1092 units to accommodate the growing need. (Source: http://rentalhousingindex.ca/)

How much affordable housing is needed in the Cowichan region?

The BC Non-profit Housing Association’s Affordable Housing Plan for BC identified that the:

  • Current CVRD rental supply backlog is 750 units
  • Rental housing demand to 2021 is 1000+ units
  • Annual cost to catch up with affordable housing demand is $28+ million per year, of which the community share is estimated at $7.5 million per year.

The proposed affordable housing financial contribution service is approximately 10% of the estimated community share to build the required housing.

Is this fund just to provide housing for the homeless?  Will we not just attract more homeless if we build more housing for that group?

No, because the need for affordable housing extends to many other segments of our population beyond those who are currently homeless. In fact, the largest need for affordable housing is for our neighbours, CVRD residents (elderly, single parents, families, etc.), and those seeking to relocate here to work.

In our region, rising housing costs are far exceeding increases in incomes. Many working people are having trouble finding housing they can afford. This affects professionals new to the area as well as low wage workers, young families trying to enter the housing market, seniors on fixed incomes, and others. For example: between 2016 and 2018, the average price for a single-family home in North Cowichan increased from $393,185 to $462,563, an increase of over 18%.

Will this increase my taxes?

The financial contribution service is proposed to raise $765,000 each year in support of the development of affordable housing in the region. To raise this much money, the CVRD is proposing an annual property value tax of $3.87 per $100,000 of assessed value (residential rate). What this means for an average single family home assessed at $500,000, residents will pay approximately $19.35 to support affordable housing in our region.

Why would the CVRD consider a new tax for affordable housing when people are already feeling overtaxed?

The decision to consider a new tax to address affordable housing issues in the region was not undertaken lightly. The CVRD Board has studied the question for a number of months. Ultimately, in order to bring new money into the community from federal and provincial programs (which also come from our taxes) to address our housing challenges, the decision was made to test the idea of a modest tax in order to attract a share of this funding to the Cowichan region. Recent assessments have determined that the greatest barrier to accessing funding from higher levels of government is the limited availability of matching local funds.

Who is the Cowichan Housing Association?

The Cowichan Housing Association (CHA) was established in 2015, emerging from the work of the Regional Affordable Housing Directorate under the umbrella of Social Planning Cowichan. The CHA is a regional organization that works to improve affordable housing at all levels of the housing continuum. It coordinates community initiatives and provides a host of services, programs, and projects that are best provided through a central organization. In 2018, the CHA is undertaking the development of an Attainable Housing Strategy for the Cowichan Region, which will identify the highest priority affordable housing projects by type, location, and level of readiness for the next five years.

For more information, check their website: http://www.cowichanhousing.com/

Why the Cowichan Housing Association (CHA)?

Affordable housing issues are connected to all sectors of the community, including health, business, community services, and all levels of government.  CHA works to increase affordable housing options and to prevent homelessness in the Cowichan Region through research, community development, homelessness prevention programming, and facilitating affordable housing development.

CHA works hard to keep informed and connected, and to coordinate its activities with other community organisations and initiatives.

During 2017-2018 CHA tackled the need for accurate and up to date data and information for making the case, and brought together key stakeholders to set the stage for action under the Regional Affordable Housing Committee. CHA also provided direct support to six affordable housing projects through information, data, research, and linkages to funding:

  • Youth Respite Housing (concept development and funding proposal)
  • Youth Shelter Project (concept development, Business Plan and partnership development)
  • Housing for Families (funding linkages and partnerships)
  • Housing for Youth and Families Project (concept development, information on development processes)
  • Integrating Affordable Housing into two private multi-family developments (Partnership building and funding information)

CHA builds community capacity for increasing housing by:

  • doing the research and analysis to assess needs and gaps, and ensure that we are planning for the spectrum of needs in our local communities
  • compiling the data needed to support funding applications 
  • developing a housing strategy that provides clear direction and promotes coordinated action for local governments, non-profits, businesses, and community groups 
  • providing the framework to connect the parties and facilitate collaboration to move key projects forward
  • promoting best practices and innovative solutions

 See www.cowichanhousing.com for more information

How will the Cowichan Housing Association use the money?

Of the total of $765,000 per year, $500,000 (65%) is committed directly towards helping to get “bricks and mortar” projects underway. A further $138,000 (18%) is committed directly towards programming to prevent housing loss, developing partnerships, and research and data collection. Administration and overhead costs are estimated at $127,000 (16%).

The Cowichan Housing Association will use the money to:

  • Provide partnership funding for housing projects,
  • Support housing loss prevention programming,
  • Leverage dollars from federal and provincial governments,
  • Create partnerships to bring together the right people to get housing built, and
  • Develop research and data for evidence informed decisions.

Why isn’t all the money going directly to ‘bricks and mortar’? Why is there a need for programs and administration?

Of the $765,000 collected, $638,000 (83%) will be used for increasing housing supply:  $500,000 will be used for seed funds to directly fund affordable housing and housing loss prevention; $138,000 will be used for programs needed to support development and implementation of housing plans, including:

  • Partnership and capacity building
  • Project development support and facilitation
  • Coordinating and facilitating community engagement and consultation
  • Research, data and policy analysis to inform and guide planning and decisions
  • Assisting community initiatives to deliver housing loss prevention services and Housing First partnerships

$112,000 (15%) will be used by CHA and $15,000 (2%) by CVRD for administering the Housing Trust Fund to ensure efficient management, oversight, monitoring and accountability, including

  • Providing an annual budget and work plan
  • Maintaining and administering the financial and allocations process and distribution of funds
  • Maintaining a database of housing providers
  • Requisitioning housing proposals and applications
  • Meeting with prospective project proponents
  • Liaisoning with federal and provincial funders
  • Conducting quarterly and annual project monitoring, performance analysis and evaluation
  • Reporting and accounting annually to the CVRD

How will this service benefit me? 

  • In need? It will assist in the development of more affordable housing in the region.
  • A business person? More affordable housing options will help attract skilled employees.
  • Want to downsize? It will foster more housing alternatives such as smaller suites and townhouses for seniors.

How will this service benefit the community?

  • Allowing young families to find homes in the region
  • Revitalizing neighbourhoods
  • Meeting the safe housing needs of many different types of vulnerable people: single mothers, people with disabilities, seniors, youth, and others with special needs
  • Creating economic benefits for the local community, such as attracting new businesses, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenues
  • Reducing the social costs of health, safety and policing

Isn’t this something that charitable or not-for-profit organizations should deal with?

Yes, it is.  CHA is a not-for-profit organisation that can attract volunteer labour and expertise.  Still, without some predictable income it is hard for any not-for-profit to maintain expertise and resources.  Through the proposed agreement with CVRD, CHA will have $112,000 per year to keep up the data base, meet with prospective housing proponents, maintain contact with senior governments, prepare budgets and keep the community informed with some full-time staff and office facilities. 

Why is affordable housing necessary here? We are not Vancouver or Victoria where prices are (admittedly) ridiculous.

The experiences in Vancouver and Victoria are being reflected here as people in those areas are cashing in on the excessively high house values in urban areas and relocating to the Cowichan region. Real estate firms are reporting that regional house sales have risen dramatically. This is challenging for many who are either looking to get into the housing market or looking to downsize or rent.  Right now, there is a backlog in the CVRD of 750 rental units.  A further 1,000+ units are needed by 2021.  That’s a need for almost 2,000 units within three years.

How will the sum of $765,000 a year possibly meet the need for affordable housing (rental and home ownership)?

The annual cost to catch up with affordable housing demand is over $28 million per year, of which the community share is estimated to be $7.5 million.  The proposed affordable housing financial contribution service is approximately 10% of the estimated community share to build the required housing.  It is intended to act as seed money to attract and leverage other funds needed from federal and provincial housing programs.

What is preventing affordable housing from being built now, without a new tax?

The need for housing exceeds the ability of the market and the capacity of the not-for-profit sectors to fulfill that need. Private developers are unable to build market housing at prices that are affordable for people earning at or below the median income in the region.  And while many not-for-profit organisations are planning a variety of housing developments, they are busy with their operations and do not have the capacity to develop projects and arrange funding to meet increased demands.   Completion of housing projects is challenged by both a lack of financial resources and the personnel to develop and implement housing plans.  

An enterprise like CHA can provide the experience, expertise and data needed to support new projects proposed by the not-for-profit sector.  Moreover, a housing financial contribution service can fulfill the funding criteria of both the national housing investment funds and provincial funding.  Those criteria require evidence of local financial support for approval of funding applications.

What has the CVRD been doing on this issue?

2007 – 2015 

CVRD planning staff and elected officials participated in various ways and capacities with Social Planning Cowichan and the Regional Affordable Housing Directorate; policies in Official Community Plans; provision of secondary suites in all residential zones

2014 CVRD Regional Needs Assessment

2015 Business Case for a Cowichan Valley Regional Affordable Housing Trust Fund developed, by Social Planning Cowichan and the Cowichan Housing Association (with support from the CVRD)

2017 CVRD Board begins reviewing options for taking action on affordable housing

2018 (April) CVRD Board establishes initial consultation period for a bylaw to establish a financial contribution service for affordable housing

2018 (June) CVRD Board decides to take the bylaw to establish an affordable housing financial contribution service to referendum in October 2018