Nearly 4,000 households in Chilliwack spend more than 30 per cent of their pre-tax income on rent, and nearly 1,700 are spending more than half.
The situation has become critical, according to provincial non-profit housing and co-op housing advocates who want to see the issue front-and-centre in voters’ minds on the provincial election day May 9.
‘This has reached crisis level proportions,” said Jill Atkey, director of research and education at B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA). “When you’ve got nearly half of British Columbians spending more than 30 per cent of income and a quarter of renters spending more than 50 per cent of income, that really impacts what they are able to do, and the other amenities they are able to afford.”
To help push the affordable housing agenda, the BCNPHA and the Co-operative Housing Federation of B.C. (CHFBC) joined together under the “Housing Central” umbrella along with a number of other member groups. They created riding-by-riding profiles (focused at the urban centres in those ridings) breaking down the number of renters and what they are paying for rent, based on Statistics Canada data.
Of the 30,430 households in Chilliwack, 7,655 or 25 per cent are renters. Of that number, 51 per cent reported spending more than 30 per cent of pre-tax income on rent and 22 per cent reported paying more than 50 per cent.
And the data used by Housing Central comes from the 2011 census, as 2016 census data on housing has not yet been released. That is due out in the fall. At that time, Atkey said they will update their numbers, which will almost certainly paint an even more troubling picture.
“We know that rents have increased from those data sources fairly dramatically and particularly in the last two to three years,” she told The Progress. “I don’t anticipate that when we do this update the picture will be any rosier.”
Then there were the 221 persons in Chilliwack tallied as living on the streets in the 2017 homeless count, a tripling from the 73 counted in 2014.
The picture in Chilliwack mirrors provincial numbers that show 117,000 households need help affording rent in current units. Housing Central says 80,000 units are needed to fix the current backlog, and an average of 7,000 units a year over the next 10 years.
All of this sounds daunting, but Atkey said it’s doable. With $1.2 billion needed annually on the supply side, she said the federal government “are at the table in a way they haven’t been in 25 years.”
And with the province committing $1 billion last year, if the next provincial government could come up with $410 annually, along with that much from the federal government and the further third from the community housing sector, things could change.
“If we could commit to doing that over 10 years we would effectively solve the problem that we are facing,” Atkey said.
Atkey said the Housing Central campaign to target local election candidates is non-partisan.
“The time for the blame game is over and we are all in this collectively and collectively we can come up with the solutions,” she said.