Politicians held gold-coloured shovels at a ceremonial groundbreaking for a 125-unit “affordable housing” project in Burnaby on Tuesday.
It was the official construction kickoff for a 14-storey apartment building slated for completion in 2020. The non-market project will be built by developer Thind Properties in partnership with the province, City of Burnaby and New Vista Society.
The province has committed $17 million to the project, while Burnaby plans to contribute $7 million.
Thind is also building a 47-storey mixed-use tower on the adjacent lot with office space and 324 market condominiums.
Housing Minister Selina Robinson lauded the partnership and her NDP government’s efforts to improve housing affordability in B.C.
“Our government is putting the focus back on people and getting them the results that they need,” she said. “We're doing that by building the right types of homes right across the province.”
But the so-called “affordable” apartments may still be out of reach for many lower-income British Columbians. The estimated rents in the project are:
- $886/month for a studio
- $1,336/month for a one-bedroom
- $2,132/month for a two-bedroom
- $2,503/month for a three-bedroom
Robinson said the project is part of the province’s efforts to provide housing for low-, moderate- and higher-income residents.
“We recognize that this is an issue that has been going on for quite some time in terms of housing affordability, and so making sure that we have a full range of housing is really important,” Robinson said.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation considers housing to be affordable if it costs less than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income.
Using that metric, a single parent would need a $85,000 salary to afford a two-bedroom unit.
New Vista’s board president Linda Flegel said it was a “good question” whether the estimated rents were truly affordable.
“Affordable in the Lower Mainland is a part of the market and a lot of the investment opportunities and the desirability to live in the Lower Mainland,” she said.
The two Thind buildings will be built on Sussex Avenue near Beresford Street in Metrotown. Three low-rise walk-up buildings with 64 rental units were demolished to make way for the new development.
The demovictions were part of a rash of displacement in the area in recent years, as developers moved to build new towers in the place of cheap rental buildings thanks to a change in zoning designation by the city.
Last summer, housing activist Dave Diewart said the non-market component of the development replacing the Sussex buildings wasn’t enough.
“This is not a viable, sustainable response to the crisis,” he said. “What we’ve always advocated for is for the state to redistribute wealth. We need to get rid of private property. The idea that anyone owns private property seems to be the root of the problem.”
But Flegel said efforts were made to help the displaced tenants relocate.
“New Vista worked with Thind to provide alternative housing with options for the people who were displaced,” she said.
And those same renters will have the opportunity to move back to the site once the new project is done, she said.
“We're reaching out to them as well for first option back into the development when it's ready to go.”
Flegel said the remaining units will be rented to people on a B.C. Housing waiting list.