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Posted: January 7, 2017

Addressing housing affordability a provincial priority

Letter to the Editor

On Monday, Jan. 16, BC Housing will start accepting applications for the new BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program.

This program is the latest in a series of announcements our government made in 2016 to address housing affordability challenges in B.C.

The program will contribute to the amount that first-time homebuyers have already saved for their down payment. It will provide up to $37,500, or up to 5% of the purchase price, with a 25-year loan that is interest-free and payment-free for the first five years. Through the BC HOME Partnership program, the Province is investing about $703 million over the next three years to help an estimated 42,000 British Columbia households enter the market for the first time.

By introducing this program, the Province will ensure first-time homebuyers have stable and affordable housing for themselves and for their families, while people looking to rent will gain access to the units that become available. If this program enables even half that number of households to move from renting to owning a home, we could free up 20,000 units of much-needed rental stock in the province.

The BC HOME Partnership program is an important plank in the province’s six guiding principles to address housing affordability in British Columbia:

* Ensuring the dream of home ownership remains within the reach of the middle class;

* Increasing housing supply;

* Smart transit expansion;

* Supporting first-time homebuyers;

* Ensuring consumer protection; and

* Increasing rental supply.

We have taken significant steps to address the demand for rental supply in British Columbia. In September 2016, we announced a $500-million investment to create 2,900 units of affordable rental housing. That followed our investment of $355 million to create 2,000 new rental units, announced in February 2016, committing a total of $855 million to nearly 5,000 units of housing.

This new housing will meet the needs of a wide variety of people in communities throughout the province, including low- to moderate-income renters, seniors, youth, students and adults with developmental disabilities, Aboriginal people and women and children. I expect many of these projects to break ground in spring and summer 2017. There are also an additional 2,500 units of housing in development or under construction.

As well, a number of affordable housing projects are set to open this year, providing a new place to call home for people in need. Over the next few months, we will officially open new housing projects in Abbotsford, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Prince George, Vancouver and Victoria.

More than 104,000 British Columbia households benefit from a diverse range of provincial programs and services. This includes rent assistance to keep private market rentals affordable for low-income families and seniors. Over 30,000 households in B.C. receive cash assistance through the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER).

Since 2001, the British Columbia government has invested $4.9 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families. This investment has helped us complete nearly 24,000 units of affordable rental housing.

I am proud of the action we have taken to address British Columbia’s housing affordability challenges and I want to assure everyone that this will continue to be a priority for our government.

Rich Coleman,

Deputy Premier and Minister Responsible for Housing

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