The term “housing continuum” refers to the range of shelter and housing options, from emergency shelters and transitional housing to supportive housing for vulnerable populations including seniors and people with mental illness to public and non-profit affordable rental housing to market rental, to home ownership. Ideally, there should be options available for those who need them all along the housing continuum.
Even though there is an estimated shortage of 35,000 rental units in Metro Vancouver (increasing by 3,500 per year), developers do not build affordable rental housing for low-income earners, because the return on investment is simply not there. Development of homes at the low-income end of the housing continuum is dependent on financial contributions from federal, provincial and/or municipal governments.
In 1993 the federal government withdrew funding for new social housing in Canada. This has resulted in a crisis in social housing. The social housing stock in the province is overburdened. There are 13,000 names on the BC Housing applicant list. Skyrocketing real estate values and a low rental vacancy rate of 0.5% in Metro Vancouver have combined to make our city one of the least affordable in Canada.
The dearth of affordable rental housing in Vancouver means that once someone secures a subsidized home they stay put. A healthy housing continuum could facilitate those in social housing to move on and up once they get established. To create movement through the housing continuum, Vancouver needs more affordable housing, for both rental and purchase.
VNHS itself has an extensive waitlist of applicants for housing. Wait times are impossible to determine as they are completely dependent on the number of move-outs throughout the year and which are not in the control by VNHS.
The homeownership rate among Indigenous people is 32.6%, half that of Vancouverites overall.
The problem is that once a person/family secures a subsidized unit they do not usually move because there are so few affordable options. Combine all of these factors and you have a crisis spiralling out of control.
One solution that will help reduce the strain on the social housing stock is the development of affordable homeownership programming for Vancouver’s urban Indigenous population. This is one of the many social enterprise solutions that the Society is developing to get things moving along the continuum.