By Rich Coleman
The recent Metro Vancouver Regional Homelessness Task Force Report highlights the complexity of homelessness and reminds us that partnerships are key to addressing the issue in British Columbia.
Together with the federal government and our community partners, the Province invested more than $375 million in Metro Vancouver last year to provide affordable housing and rent supplements to help more than 61,000 individuals and families.
This includes more than $138 million for emergency shelters and housing for those who are homeless.
We have outreach teams across the region, connecting homeless people with housing, as well as the services to help them stabilize their lives, such as accessing mental health and addictions services, making medical appointments, and even basic literacy skills that most of us take for granted.
But addressing homelessness directly is only part of the equation, something the report fails to recognize.
We also need to prevent homelessness by increasing housing supply – creating affordable rental units and facilitating home ownership for low- and middle-income British Columbians. The provincial government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to create 13,500 units in Metro Vancouver since 2001.
And in the last six months, the Province has committed $920 million in additional funding to construct and renovate close to 5,300 units of affordable rental housing throughout the Province – $131 million of that has already been allocated to projects that will create 1,750 new, affordable rental units in Metro Vancouver.
It’s also why we’ve created the new BC HOME Partnership Program to assist an estimated 42,000 families purchase their first home.
The Province cannot do it alone. We need assistance from the Metro Vancouver mayors, who can expedite development approvals for supportive and rental housing. They can use their land-use tools and zoning to create higher densities and pre-zone land to expedite affordable rental housing.
And they can continue to partner with the Province by identifying and providing municipal land for supportive housing. We need their assistance, not just their recriminations.
Unfortunately, the mayors chose to present their report politically, immediately prior to a provincial election. It seems they care more about grabbing headlines, rather than helping British Columbians step out of homelessness, avoid becoming homeless, rent an affordable home or buy their first home.
Making sure everyone has access to safe, affordable housing is a shared responsibility between all levels of government and the community itself.
We are doing our part and encourage Metro Vancouver’s mayors to continue to partner with us and do theirs.
Rich Colemen is B.C.’s Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing