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15,000 new housing units needed in Burnaby by 2030: draft report

That includes more 5,700 rentals and 9,300 for ownership, according to a draft of Burnaby's housing needs assessment
Townhouses and highrises in Burnaby. Photos via Jennifer Gauthier/Burnaby Now

The number of Burnaby residents waiting for a home through BC Housing grew by 50% in recent years. Median incomes often aren’t enough for median rents in the city. Nearly a third of Burnaby’s renters live in untenable homes.

These are some of the stark figures outlined in a 78-page draft of the City of Burnaby’s housing needs report, obtained by the NOW. The report is currently still a draft, with numbers not fully vetted before its public release. The report, once finalized, will be used by the city to help form the basis of its housing and homelessness strategy, which the city hopes to have finalized by the end of 2021.

In the next five years, the report estimates the city needs 3,110 new rental units at various levels of affordability. That includes 1,200 for households with incomes of less than $35,000, 710 units for those with incomes between $35,000 and $59,999 and 550 units for incomes between $60,000 and $84,999. Another 550 units should also be built for incomes of $85,000 and over.

And for the following five years – from 2026 to 2030 – the city needs an additional 2,640 rental units, distributed similarly between income levels. Combined, that means the city needs roughly 5,700 new rentals.

By comparison, the report indicates the city needs 9,310 new units for ownership in the next 10 years.

Long waits for BC Housing

In total, 1,805 households are on BC Housing’s housing registry waitlist this year, compared to 1,202 households in 2013. Of the households currently on the waitlist, 39% are family households, 35% are senior households, 13% are people with disabilities and 10% are individuals.

Nearly 6,800 households receive some kind of support from BC Housing, including 3,850 living in BC Housing-affiliated social housing and 1,660 receiving rent assistance while renting in the private market.

On top of all of that, 5,491 Burnaby residents applied for the B.C. temporary rent subsidy from the provincial government.

Long waits for affordable housing increase households’ risk of falling into homelessness, according to a response to a stakeholder survey conducted by the city, which was quoted in the report.

Salaries not keeping up with rent

Median incomes in Burnaby often aren’t enough to pay rent in the city.

The city calculated median household incomes for 2020 using 2016 census data and historical income growth rates, and not all household types are affected evenly.

Individuals living on their own and lone-parent families have it the worst – median incomes of $26,660 and $37,197 respectively are not enough for a studio apartment, let alone a one- or two-bedroom apartment, according to the report.

Meanwhile, for couples without children, a median household income of $54,986 is enough to afford a studio or one-bedroom apartment, but a two- or three-bedroom apartment is out of reach. Couples with children, with a median income of $71,978, can afford anything up to a two-bedroom apartment, with a three-bedroom unit just out of reach.

But it could get worse. The median rents used in these calculations reflect what people are currently paying – not what is currently available in the market.

These data reflect median incomes and rents and not individuals’ personal struggles or comforts. Low-income seniors, for instance, are specifically noted as “facing significant housing insecurity,” and if evicted, “many would have limited options due to the high cost of rental housing in Burnaby.”

The standard calculation of affordability is based on the portion of pre-tax income – 30% or more is considered unaffordable, with 50% or more considered extremely unaffordable.

More than a third of Burnaby renters are paying too much of their income on shelter, based on 2016 data. According to that year’s census, 11,215 renters (36.9% of all renters in the city) in Burnaby are paying too much of their income on housing. That compares with the estimated 12,630 homeowners (23.7%), according to the same report.

“Families and individuals frequently experience being underhoused in poorly maintained buildings because the rent is affordable,” reads a response to a stakeholder survey conducted by the city.

A third of renters in ‘core housing need’

On top of affordability, there are two other nationally recognized indicators when it comes to housing:

  • adequacy – a home should not require major repairs (as determined by the resident)
  • suitability – there should be enough bedrooms for the size and makeup of the household

The city is in better condition when it comes to these indicators, though both are also worse for renters than they are for owners.

According to the report, 3,175 owners (6%) live in inadequate housing, compared to 2,425 renters (8%), and 3,020 owners (5.7%) and 4,705 renters (15.5%) live in unsuitable housing.

Taken together, 6,870 owners (12.9%) and 9,780 renters (32.1%) are considered to be part of the city’s “core housing need” or “extreme core housing need.”

Core housing need is defined by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as a household that falls below at least one of the three standards – adequacy, affordability or suitability – and who would have to pay 30% or more of its pre-tax income to afford the city’s median rent. Extreme core housing need would need to pay 50% or more of its pre-tax income to afford the city’s median rent.

Nearly 12% of renters meet the extreme core housing need definition, according to the report, compared with 6% of owners.

These figures have been stable between the 2006 census, the 2011 national household survey and 2016 census.

Lacking resources for renters

Part of the issue, according to survey responses in the report, is that while the city has been adding to its stock of rental housing through new developments, they typically are far more expensive than the older rental buildings they are replacing. And even then, supply has not kept up with demand.

This can be challenging for those with low incomes, but also for those with middle-class incomes, who can’t access rent subsidies but also can’t afford market rents.

For renters more generally, the issue of inadequate housing can be troublesome, according to the report, which noted that tenants “lack resources to address repairs and face harassment from the landlords.”

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