The concept drawing presented to Campbell River city council showing the affordable housing facility planned for 850 Dogwood Street. Some are questioning the definition of ‘affordable,’ however. Image from City of Campbell River staff report

The concept drawing presented to Campbell River city council showing the affordable housing facility planned for 850 Dogwood Street. Some are questioning the definition of ‘affordable,’ however. Image from City of Campbell River staff report

Some in Campbell River questioning the definition of ‘affordable housing’

Definitions are set at the provincial level, according to council, but they’re working to change them

There’s a new apartment building in the works for 850 Dogwood Street.

The 79-unit housing complex was approved by city council late in the summer, touted as another move towards increasing the affordable housing stock in the community, but even around council chambers, there are some who wonder just how “affordable” the units will really be.

The city placed an “Affordability Covenant” on the property in early September stating the building, “must remain a rental building for at least 10 years and the rents must meet the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) guidelines for affordability in this region.”

The goal of the covenant, according to the document, was to ensure “that there is an adequate supply of rental housing in the city for persons with Middle Incomes (as hereinafter defined),” but there are some who question the definition provided.

In order for someone to be considered an “eligible occupant” of the building, their annual household annual income can be no greater than $112,410 for a suite with less than two bedrooms. That limit rises to $155,510 for a unit with two or more bedrooms.

The subject came up at the time the covenant was being discussed, with Coun. Charlie Cornfield saying, “I thought this was for ‘middle income,’ but I don’t see $150,000 as middle income,” but council was told the limits are set at the provincial level.

It came up again at the Oct. 19 meeting, when the city was considering a development permit variance that would allow the property’s retaining walls to be higher than would normally be allowed and a rezoning application that would see the property go from from Residential Multiple 3 (RM-3) to Comprehensive Development 4 (CD-4). There weren’t any problems with the retaining wall or zoning variance, but at least one member of council still wanted to address the affordability question.

“I think people in the community will be quite surprised that a middle-income household is considered to be, for families with children, $163,000 per year,” said Coun. Claire Moglove, “and for families without children, $116,000. There’s nothing we can do about it now – it’s a provincial standard set by BC Housing – but I wanted to put a thought into council’s mind that this is something we’d like to address with the province in the future.”

Mayor Andy Adams agrees, and encouraged Moglove to put forward a notice of motion to discuss it in more detail at a future meeting.

Adams told the Mirror after the meeting that he completely agrees that those numbers are not reflective of what should be considered “affordable” in our area, and that council will continue to lobby the province for changes to be made to the system that determines them.

“The benchmarks for what is termed ‘affordable market housing’ that developers sign onto covenants with BC Housing for – that’s what 850 Dogwood is and there may be a couple of others in the works – we don’t set those numbers,” Adams says. “Those are set with the province, and we have advocated for them to break that up by geographical area, because Greater Vancouver, Kelowna and Victoria are not the same as Revelstoke or Fort St. John or Campbell River.”

But he also says that the more housing that gets built at all levels of the economic spectrum, the better off the situation will become in terms of affordability, and the complex at 850 Dogwood is just one piece of that puzzle.

“This is another great addition, in this council’s determination, to increase housing options and opportunities in Campbell River,” Adams says. “As we continue to see mixed-use development and apartments being built, it changes the dynamic between supply and demand. We haven’t had any supply, which means people could basically charge whatever people would pay. The more supply we have, you could, potentially, help bring that number down on a monthly rental price, because there’s more choice for people.”

Watch the Mirror for updates on the project and how the city will address the question of “what’s considered affordable?” going forward.

RELATED: SRD’s affordable housing role needs to be strengthened – Report

RELATED: Affordable housing for women and children coming to downtown Campbell River

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