Column: Another step toward affordable housing in Chilliwack

Chilliwack's Affordable Housing Strategy is slowly filling some of the gaps in the city. But more work needs to be done.

Stable and secure housing is a key component to success in life. However, finding that housing in a super-heated market like the Lower Mainland can be a challenge.

In Chilliwack that hunt promises to get a little easier, thanks to a $17 million investment from BC Housing on Monday and the continued efforts by local non-profits and the City of Chilliwack.

On Monday the provincial government announced an $11 million commitment to the Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society, and another $6 million for supportive housing at Ruth and Naomi’s. Both projects will offer important additions to Chilliwack’s affordable housing inventory, and mark another step on the path charted by this city’s affordable housing strategy.

That strategy is more than eight years old. It was sparked by concern over the rising cost of housing in Chilliwack and the continued pressure on the rental stock in the community.

It wasn’t developed in a vacuum. It was the product of extensive consultations with the private sector, non-profits and the public. The result was a 30-page document, finalized in 2008, that provides a guidemap to affordable housing in Chilliwack.

“Affordable housing” is a broad term, and the strategy looks at a variety of housing types, from emergency shelters to long-term family homes.

At the time of its creation, the cost of accommodation in Chilliwack was rapidly outstripping incomes. As a result, more and more people were spending over 30 per cent of their income on housing, with some spending as much as 50 per cent.

The economic downturn at the end of 2008 cooled the housing market somewhat. But today, with home sales reaching historic levels, the cost and availability of housing is once again putting pressure on too many families.

Not only has the cost of owning a home reached unprecedented levels, the rental stock has been drastically cut as investment properties are sold. Estimates put the vacancy rates between zero and three per cent, depending on the location.

Historically, providing affordable housing has not been the role of local government. However, as other levels of government (the federal government in particular) have moved away, municipal governments have had to play a larger role. There are a few tools at their disposal, and some were identified in the City’s housing strategy.

Most centre on making the development process easier by fast-tracking eligible projects.

But municipalities can also increase the affordable housing stock through increased density, and by allowing such things as coach houses and secondary suites.

These steps may fill some of the gaps. However, they’re only one part of a complex mix.

Another key identified in the strategy is creating partnerships. This week we saw the successful result of that effort.

The Mamele’awt Qweesome Housing Society project, which gained its rezoning in October, will create 80 affordable units in an “urban village” setting. Construction is expected to start this spring.

Also slated to begin this spring is the long-anticipated project at Ruth and Naomi’s Mission. With the $6 million in funding support from the province, the project will add another 35 units, providing badly needed supportive housing for low-income families.

These additions come as other projects, like the Cyrus Centre for at risk youth (which hopes to double its capacity), The Village on School Street, and the Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre continue to support Chilliwack’s housing needs.

Other parts to this puzzle are still missing, of course – parts made even more visible by the dramatic increase Chilliwack’s homeless population. But we should acknowledge how far Chilliwack has come since it launched its ambitious housing strategy.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vedder Park area where alcohol consumption was part of a pilot project in 2020. (City of Chilliwack)
Hundreds weighed in with opinions on alcohol consumption in Chilliwack parks

Pilot project in two Chilliwack parks last summer saw responsible drinking in designated areas

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

In this photo illustration, a provincial election mail-in ballot sealed in an Elections B.C. return envelope is seen before being deposited in a Canada Post mailbox, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. For the Chilliwack school board byelection being held Feb. 13, 2020, mail ballots will now be a part of the process. (The Canadian Press/ Darryl Dyck)
Mail ballots approved for Chilliwack school board byelection

Applications to vote by mail need to be submitted to city by Jan. 28

Leonard Hodgins released his seven-song EP, A Date, with Disaster, on Jan. 4, 2021. (Submitted)
‘Silver lining’ to pandemic as Chilliwack musician finds inspiration, releases new album

Leonard Hodgins released his EP ‘A Date, with Disaster’ at the beginning of 2021

Preliminary artist rendering by Karvin Developments for three-lot subdivision on Berkeley Avenue. (City of Chilliwack/Karvin)
Subdivision proposal for three new homes on Berkeley Avenue goes through

Developer agrees to two-storey height limit on homes proposed for large lot over slough

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read