Burnaby council has approved a study to help determine the best option to make more affordable family co-operative housing a future reality.
For about the last five years, council has stashed away 20 per cent of community amenity bonus money from developments, which has added up to $10 million in the bank.
At Monday night’s council meeting, the city decided to budget $10,000 for an affordable family co-operative housing study.
“There are pieces of the (housing) puzzle that aren’t as easily fleshed out, and an opportunity came forward over the summer time with an idea to look at a somewhat different twist of filling in one of the gaps in the continuum, and that is the use of a co-op,” said Coun. Colleen Jordan. “Not in the traditional sense that most of us know, but an equity co-op or something similar to that and that may form a piece of our work for the variety of housing needs in the city going into the future.”
But, Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said he had a difficult time supporting this initiative because it could come at the cost of the provincial and federal government downloading more of its responsibilities.
“I recognize why we are doing this,” he said. “My head tells me it’s not a great thing, but my heart tells me it’s the right thing to do. My mind (says it’s wrong), because I think eventually it could be other things … more people will expect us to do more while the other parties continue to be standing on the sidelines.”
Dhaliwal said the study represents an innovative way to deal with the housing needs of the city, but more pressure needs to be put on the provincial and federal governments.
“We should not stop advocating on behalf of the people and say that much more needs to be done,” he said. “As I support this, I see this as something that we should do, but really there’s much more needed to be done and someday, hopefully, the government responsible for it will take it and hopefully do something about it.”
Mayor Derek Corrigan said council has been concerned with the idea of having property taxpayers subsidize accommodation for other people in the community.
“We’ve taken a position fairly strongly that that can’t be done,” he said. “It’s a struggle for many of our citizens to maintain and pay taxes on their own properties without being required to subsidize other properties.”
Corrigan pointed out the fund came out of development in Burnaby.
“The idea is we work on a co-operative formula, perhaps we can leverage (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) financing into projects, which will allow people to buy in to a home of their own with a co-operative arrangement,” he added.
Corrigan noted the success co-operatives had in the 1970s and 1980s, but the provincial and federal governments “walked away” from them as a concept.
“We continue to have extremely positive co-operatives within our community who have been very successful in maintaining affordable housing within our community and also providing housing for people who are on the margin,” he said.
Corrigan said the co-operative framework still has merit and council is considering “an old idea that worked.”
“It’s an option that needs to be looked at to see if whether or not, actually, we can reinvent the wheel,” he added.
Council also authorized staff to apply to B.C. Housing for a $5,000 cost-sharing grant for the study.
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