The Housing Hub might be the fresh idea Chilliwack needs to deal with its housing crisis.
Graham McMahon, the new housing development coordinator for Pacific Community Resources Society, has been working to build support for the systems-based initiative called the Housing Hub.
McMahon has been making presentations to groups across Chilliwack for months, like the one for council at city hall Tuesday, to gain community buy-in and support, which is key to its success.
The Housing Hub idea is based on a two-pronged approach, said McMahon.
“The first is procuring suitable housing with appropriate supports for those in need of housing, using a client-centred care approach.
“It’s a philosophy that says we’re not going to dictate what we think they need, we’re going to listen and find out what is going to work best for them.”
That is what is meant by a “client-based” approach, with individualized care, inter-agency cooperation, and daily supports.
The second way is for the hub to generate rental inventory, with the help and commitment of developers, property owners, and other partners.
“We have families that can pay for a three-bedroom house, but can’t find one,” he said illustrating the complex situation.
It’s a crisis because it has become almost impossible to secure rental housing now in Chilliwack, and “renovictions” have become commonplace.
Rental units are few and pricey. Homes that once held rental units are being bought up because Chilliwack has some of the last “affordable” real estate prices in the region, McMahon said.
A 204 per cent increase in homelessness was also revealed in the last homeless count, McMahon said. Add to that the hidden homeless, the precariously housed, and the large at-risk population which spends more than 50 per cent of its income on rent, and the desperate predicament many are facing is made clear.
If they can increase the rental inventory, they can generate a little vacancy.
“One of the ways is to build partnerships with existing landlords to leverage existing multi-room rental inventory,” he said.
The idea is creating higher-density rental arrangements — with supports. It is based on some of the best aspects of the Raven’s Moon model they have in Abbotsford.
Raven’s Moon has 14 detached houses and 10 basement suites, and houses more than 100 people using that model. They don’t own land.
“Their supportive housing model benefits both the tenants and the landlords; in fact, there have been landlords that have approached Raven’s Moon to request they rent their houses,” he said.
In this instance the housing hub would have support staff that would conduct daily visits.
The hub can’t create housing for everyone who needs it in Chilliwack. That’s not the goal.
But it can go at the problem in two major ways, to start to make a difference in Chilliwack.
“With a near zero vacancy rate, we need more rental housing,” said McMahon. “The Housing Hub will generate more rental inventory, but will also provide the necessary supports to keep people housed who have barriers to maintain their own housing.”
The new PCRS housing development coordinator is on contract to come up with a plan to deal with the crisis in Chilliwack in less than a year.
It’s challenging but there is a plan being discussed, that would require staff and funding in order to come to fruition.
The Pacific Community Resources Society’s housing development coordinator contract is funded from a grant obtained from the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy, through PGNAETA. Four partners applied jointly for the funding: PCRS, City of Chilliwack, Fraser Health, and Xolhemet Society. In general PCRS offers services in a range of communities dealing with substance use, housing, residential support, employment, counselling, and education.
They are looking for assistance from the community once the Housing Hub gets going.
Anyone in Chilliwack, who is a landlord, a property manager, a developer, interested in becoming a volunteer, and wants to learn more about the Housing Hub, can email McMahon at email@example.com