The Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group has published a 2017 BC Election Advocacy Kit to bring attention to homelessness and the availability and affordability of housing in the province during the provincial election campaign. The kit includes a synopsis of the Affordable Housing Plan for BC recently released by the BC Rental Housing Coalition as well as the affordable housing platforms of each of the 3 major BC political parties for comparison. The Affordable Housing Plan for BC is a 10 year strategy which proposes a series of specific and costed measures that can be implemented immediately to increase rental housing supply, close the affordability gap, and help address homelessness in BC, and is a suitable benchmark against which to measure each of the party’s commitment to addressing the expanding crisis of homelessness and housing in the province.
To access the 2017 BC Election Advocacy Kit, click here: tricitieshomelessness.ca/bulletin board
The rate of drug overdoses and overdose deaths is increasing in the Tri-Cities, as it is across the country. Fraser Health is presenting a Tri-Cities “Take Home Nalaxone Training” workshop on Tuesday, August 9th, 7 – 9 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM) at Trinity United Church, 2211 Prairie Ave, Port Coquitlam (corner Shaughnessy St and Prairie Ave).
The training is a public health initiative to create community awareness and knowledge of how to recognize and respond to drug overdoses by family, friends or the general public, in the same manner that CPR training provides the skills to respond to heart attacks.
This training is open to all members of the public. All of us are potentially impacted by substance abuse in our community, oftentimes in places and to people we would not anticipate. The best defence is to be informed and to be ready to respond.
The Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group has just released the 2016 edition of the Tri-Cities Housing Affordability Report. This is the 4th consecutive year the report has been published. Of note:
- Not unexpectedly, the purchase price for housing in the Tri-Cities has increased dramatically since 2012, with the greatest rate of increase for all 3 forms of housing – detached, townhouse and apartment – occurring between 2014 – 2015. Yet the “affordable” income required to purchase this housing (based on the average Housing Prince Index May – July ’15) is less than in 2012. This is the result of mortgage interest rates which have steadily declined since 2012. Undoubtedly, demand fuelled by low interest rates is an important factor in the increase in the sale price of all forms of housing in the Tri-Cities.
- A new feature of the Tri-Cities Housing Affordability Report is the “Rental Housing Index” (RHI) created by a partnership between the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Vancity. The RHI compares the health of the rental housing sector between each of 72 communities in the province of British Columbia. Coquitlam is the 2nd worst performer in the province with an overall rating of “critical” and a ranking of 71 out of 72 (the worst performer is Burnaby). Port Coquitlam and Port Moody fare better, with a rating of “severe” and rankings of 48/72 and 46/72 respectively. Since first published, the RHI has been expanded across Canada and reveals that Coquitlam is the 2nd worst performer of 521 communities in the country.
- A small but steady reduction in use of the SHARE food bank in the Tri-Cities since the 2013-2014 fiscal year continues. Much of this can be attributed to an improving economy, however concurrently the redevelopment of aging, lower cost rental housing adjacent to the Burquitlam Skytrain station – housing that has accommodated food bank clients – has pushed low income households further east of the Tri-Cities. This has been offset to some extent by the temporary accommodation of government-assisted Syrian refugees in this neighbourhood.
To read the report, or download a copy, click here
At its regular meeting on May 2nd, 2016, Coquitlam Council approved a disbursement of $600,000 from the City’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund to help the Talitha Koum Society expand its existing housing and support services by purchasing a second home in Coquitlam.
Talitha Koum is a non-denominational registered non-profit society which has been providing since 2001 a home, food, programming, counselling, training and other forms of support to women with addictions and their children. In 2012, Talitha Koum moved their services to Coquitlam from Vancouver and now operate solely in Coquitlam. The Society currently provides 9 beds for women with addictions and their children – the second home to be purchased by Talitha Koum will double capacity to 18 beds.
This project is significant not only because it will increase sorely-needed capacity to provide residential recovery programming for women with addictions while retaining custody of their children, but also because it will be the inaugural disbursement from Coquitlam’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund.
For more information on Talitha Koum, visit http://talithakoumsociety.org.
The City of Coquitlam’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund (AHRF) is an important tool for contributing towards potential affordable housing solutions in Coquitlam. It will act as the City’s financial contribution towards increasing the supply of housing options for low and low-to-moderate income households. For more information on the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, visit http://www.coquitlam.ca/docs/default-source/community-planning-documents/coquitlam-s-affordable-housing-reserve-fund.pdf?sfvrsn=2
“Imagine a new community in southeast Coquitlam. A community where persons suffering from mental illness or addiction receive care and support while living in a vibrant compact neighbourhood complete with a diverse range of housing choices, shops, services and opportunities for employment.” This is the vision presented by the Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group in an opinion article in the 18 March ’16 edition of the Tri-City News, prepared by Sandy Burpee, Task Group co-chair. The article continues:
“An inclusive community where these persons are integrated into the life of the community, rather than isolated from it. A community where health facilities, housing, shops and businesses, parks, walkways and streets are woven into a safe, healing and welcoming environment. To create this community is the opportunity presented by the redevelopment of the Riverview Lands.
In 2014, the Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group submitted a “Statement of Need” to the Riverview Lands visioning project. The core feature is a mental health & addictions wellness complex, incorporating psychiatric and concurrent disorders treatment, tertiary care beds and a substance abuse centre. These services would be augmented by transitional supportive housing for persons with a mental illness leaving care or persons recovering from addiction who need a bridge to the community in a safe and supportive environment.
To create a vibrant, inclusive neighbourhood for persons suffering from mental illness or addiction, however, will require more than transitional supportive housing. The land available on the Riverview site creates the opportunity to close a gap – adequate, stable housing for vulnerable households in the Tri-Cities that are currently struggling to pay their rent. Taking into account affordability and overcrowding, Coquitlam ranks as one of the worst performers in the province for the overall health of its rental housing. Almost one-half of the female-lead single parent households in Coquitlam are spending more than 50% of their income on rent, and are deemed to be at risk of homelessness. Youth also struggle to find housing that is affordable.
A normalized living environment is an important component of recovery and healing. A healthy community houses a mix of incomes, tenure and diversity, and housing on the Riverview Lands should include market rental as well as affordable rental housing. In addition to enhancing diversity, market rental housing would help offset affordable rental rates.
A Riverview community would not be complete without on-site employment including vocational rehabilitation for those living with mental health or addiction challenges or other employment barriers. Social enterprises, small businesses and shops could not only provide therapeutic engagement and employment skills for persons in tertiary care or supportive housing, but also a range of services for the blended Riverview community. Complementary commercial services on site such as medical, physiotherapy and private addiction/rehabilitation treatment facilities would be a source of revenue to offset site maintenance costs.
The natural features of the Riverview Lands provide the opportunity to connect the health facilities, housing, shops and businesses with walkways, trails and streets to create a tranquil and therapeutic setting. And, of course, frequent transit service to connect the community with the rest of the Tri-Cities will be fundamental to creating a viable community.
According to BC Housing’s “A Vision for Renewing Riverview”, strong advocacy for a complete community on the Riverview Lands has come from mental health professionals. Best practice in caring for those with mental illness is to accommodate them within neighbourhoods that include a diverse mix of other residents and housing choices. A complete community on the Riverview Lands with a mental health & addictions wellness complex at its core can provide leading-edge treatment and healing for persons suffering from mental illness or addiction while creating a home for people of all ages and income levels.”
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.
The Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group as the Social/Housing Advisory Group for the Riverview Lands visioning project has submitted the following feedback to the Riverview Lands on-line open house (#5) on the final report “A Vision for Renewing Riverview”:
The Tri-Cities Homelessness & Housing Task Group is pleased to see that the scope of “A Vision for Renewing Riverview” with regards mental health & addictions services, housing and a complete community on the Riverview Lands is consistent with the Task Group’s “Riverview Lands Statement of Need” dated 29 May 2014, and in this way recognizes the potential of the site to meet health and housing needs in both the local and broader communities.
We understand that “A Vision for Renewing Riverview” simply sets the direction for development of the Riverview Lands, with specific detail to be developed during the Master Planning phase. The Task Group welcomes the Province’s commitment to relocate 3 existing mental health & substance use programs currently located at the Willingdon site in Burnaby to new facilities at Riverview, with a modest increase of capacity at the new Centre for Mental Health & Addiction. However, our expectation is that these relocations will not preclude incorporating other facilities and services at Riverview for which a gap has been identified in our Statement of Need – adolescent psychiatric beds and outpatient services for the Fraser North area, additional severe concurrent disorder beds, a substance abuse centre for persons with addictions that do not require medically-supervised withdrawal management, and a sobering & assessment centre.
For a copy of “A Vision for Renewing Riverview” and to provide feedback, visit Renewing Riverview
Over the past several years, work has been under way by the City of Coquitlam to develop a new Housing Affordability Strategy (HAS) to guide the City’s efforts to address the growing inaffordability of housing, in particular the impact on low – moderate income households.
Council considered a draft HAS policy framework in September 2014, and a public consultation process on the framework was carried out from October 2014 to May 2015. The HAS – based on this framework – was approved by Council at its regular meeting on December 7, 2015.
In a broad sense the HAS focuses the City’s response to local housing affordability issues, but also recognizes there are a limited local government mandate and resources to address housing affordability without partnerships and senior government funding.
For a copy of the City of Coquitlam’s Housing Affordability Strategy and the Companion Document, visit www.coquitlam.ca/housing.
As of the week of December 14, 2015, RainCity Housing began accepting people into the shelter portion of Coquitlam’s new 3030 Gordon Ave shelter & transitional housing facility. The first folks came from the Tri-Cities Bridge Shelter program currently operating until the end of December. This overlap was intended so that there would be no gaps in service provision. The 3030 Gordon Ave. facility has 30 shelter beds in single private rooms: 20 for men and 10 for women. Pets are welcome and three meals a day are provided. The building is staffed 24 hours a day, every day and the front desk can be contacted 24/7 at 604.474.0435. If no one is able to answer when you call, please leave a message. Individuals needing shelter can show up in person any time.
Initial referrals to the 30 self-contained suites of transitional housing at 3030 Gordon Ave. are to be made through BC Housing. Once the application is received, new applicants are interviewed by BC Housing and RainCity staff, and they decide together on successful applicants. To apply, please contact BC Housing’s Orange Hall Office at 604.648.4270 or OrangeHall@bchousing.org
Extreme Weather Response
Beginning in January 2016, 3030 Gordon Ave. will provide shelter space in a dormitory setting for an additional 30 individuals during periods of exceptionally inclement weather when the shelter portion of the facility is at or near capacity. Pets are welcome and two meals are provided.
An ‘Extreme Weather Alert is called by the Tri-Cities EWR Coordinator and area service providers are notified of the additional shelter spaces that are available. The current Tri-Cities EWR Coordinator is Sandy Burpee, 604.461.2926.
The extreme weather beds will be available for occupancy starting at 4 PM on the day the Extreme Weather Alert is declared. Thereafter, while the Extreme Weather Alert is in effect, intake will occur on an around-the-clock basis.
For any questions about the building or the programs operating at 3030 Gordon Ave, please contact email the shelter manager at GordonManager@raincityhousing.org
The City of Coquitlam is developing a new strategy for housing affordability. The timing is fortuitous – the “Rental Housing Index” (RHI), a joint initiative of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and Vancity published in November 2014, rates the state of rental housing in Coquitlam as “critical”. In fact, the RHI “Community Index Score”, a composite measure of rental housing affordability and suitability, ranks Coquitlam as the second worst performer of 98 communities in the province, being surpassed only by the City of Burnaby.
The City is hosting a Community Information Session to provide the public with an opportunity to provide feedback on the City’s draft Housing Affordability Strategy Framework. The Information Session will be held on Wednesday, April 8th from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the atrium at Coquitlam City Hall, 3000 Guildford Way. Although a discussion of the role that municipalities can play in providing incentives to create housing affordable to low and low-moderate income households can quickly descend into the complexities of zoning policy, at a higher level the issue in front of Council is how such incentives should rank in priority with other municipally-funded amenities such as parks, recreation centres and libraries. Attend the Community Information Session and let the Council know where your priorities lie.
To view the City’s flyer which provides an overview of the draft strategy and housing affordability in Coquitlam, click here. The Task Group’s formal submission to the City’s public consultation program currently underway is available here.
The complete draft Housing Affordability Strategy Framework can be found on the City of Coquitlam Social Planning – Housing Affordability webpage.