Lego representations of different heights of residential buildings were displayed at the City of Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy expo Saturday at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The lego buildings were created by the Mid Island Lego Users Group. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy now up for discussion

Discussion paper released, shows rents aren’t affordable for people who are single

As the City of Nanaimo works on its affordable housing strategy, it’s getting an idea of how much the strategy is needed.

Nanaimo’s affordable housing strategy discussion paper, presented at a city council meeting Monday, shows that housing is unaffordable for segments of the population right now.

“You see how so many people are being priced out in Nanaimo and it’s particularly hitting hard single parents and single individuals,” said Karin Kronstal, city planner.

The affordable housing discussion paper scanned Craigslist in October 2017 and found that average rents in Nanaimo have climbed to $1,054 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,319 for two bedrooms. Based on median income in the city, those rents are affordable for couples, but not for single parents or single people. (The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as costing less than 30 per cent of before-tax household income.)

The coming affordable housing strategy will look at a range of approaches.

“What we’re looking at is what do we need to focus on in the next year or two and what do we need to think about for the next 10 years? And the great thing is, we get to do both. It’s not an either-or situation,” Kronstal said. “Some of the actions that we want to achieve in the 10-year period need to start today.”

The city approved the terms of reference for an affordable housing strategy a year ago and the project has been led by city planners with support from consultants and guidance from a steering committee. Now the affordable housing strategy is transitioning to public engagement before anticipated adoption in mid to late summer. In addition to the discussion paper put forward this month, there was a public expo Saturday at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Noha Sedky, community planner with CitySpaces Consulting, said the expo was a chance to check in with the public. For example, there was an exercise around ideas for adding density in residential neighbourhoods.

“What would you be able to envision putting on a standard lot in a low-density neighbourhood? … Would you be confident putting a coachhouse in, as well as a secondary suite on a single lot? Would you be comfortable doing more? Could you envision a triplex or … townhouses? So we were exploring those ideas with the public,” Sedky said.

She said those working on the strategy have “a pretty good sense of where it needs to go” next. She said some issues need to be resolved, for example, determining the neighbourhoods in which to pilot certain aspects of the strategy.

“In the next couple months we’re really, now, heads down, trying to develop some initial policy ideas that we’ll work closely with staff to refine,” Sedky said.

Some of the ideals expected to come out of the strategy, according to the discussion paper, include increasing the city’s supply of rental stock, improving the diversity of multi-unit housing, supporting low-income housing projects, supporting infill in residential neighbourhoods, strengthening government and community partnerships on housing, and connecting people with housing.

Sedky said there are new federal and provincial programs creating opportunities for municipalities at the moment.

“With new legislation, tax exemptions, there’s a variety of new tools coming our way,” she said. “So it’s really timely that way for a municipality trying to develop an affordable housing strategy.”

Kronstal said Nanaimo has shown leadership with its work to date on supportive and affordable housing and Sedky said Nanaimo has done a lot of work on housing compared to similarly sized municipalities.

“So it’s now about expanding that, enhancing it, taking work that they’ve already done and then furthering that,” she said.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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