Atira Women’s Resource Society is proposing a mixed-use housing development in Port Coquitlam for women and children, 60% of which will be non-market. The building will be an 84-unit complex, with 72 apartments ranging from studio to four-bedroom, and townhome blocks consisting of 8 three-bedroom units, 3 four-bedroom units and one five-bedroom group home. The intent of the development is to provide subsidized rental units for low-income single mothers and other women struggling with homelessness and poverty. If the project is approved and funding is arranged, the complex could be open by fall 2018.
Single mothers are typically the most financially challenged demographic needing housing, particularly in the Tri-Cities. In 2015, 47% of single women with children households (435) in Coquitlam were paying more than 50% of their income on housing and thereby deemed at risk of homelessness, while 35% (200) in Port Coquitlam were doing so. Coquitlam has the highest percent of single women with children households at risk of homelessness in Metro Vancouver.
There are two reasons for this. The first is low income. The average and median household incomes for single women with children for both Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam are lower than any other demographic group in these municipalities, and tend to be lower than the same group in neighbouring municipalities as well.
The second reason is the lack of affordable rental housing, particularly in Coquitlam. In November 2014, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association together with Vancity Savings published their first Rental Housing Index report. The report ranked BC municipalities on the overall health of their rental housing sector on factors of affordability and overcrowding – a low score is good, a high score is bad. Coquitlam had the second highest score in the province. In 2015, the Rental Housing Index was extended across the country – Coquitlam scored second from the top (or worst performer) in Canada at 520 of 521 municipalities, Port Coquitlam did slightly better at 475 of 521 (Coquitlam has a total of 45,500 renter households, Port Coquitlam has 20,600).
Single women with children in housing need are a concern because they are a particularly vulnerable sector of our community. Not only do they often need to deal with the after-effects of trauma and violence and often have limited income, they also have a duty of care to provide a safe and secure home for their children. Their single income must cover the expense of additional bedrooms, additional persons to feed and daycare if they are working. By creating housing that will be affordable for them, we all gain – children raised in secure and stable households are more likely to grow into independent adults, with the attendant long term benefits for society.