Last month the BC Government announced that it would spend $500 million on “affordable” housing in the months leading up to the provincial election in May. The government says this will build 2900 units of “affordable” housing but doesn’t say affordable for who. Will the units be for some of the 100,000 or so people in BC who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, or will they be for richer people? We don’t know and while this seems like a lot of money, let’s crunch the numbers first.
Last March 1847 homeless people were counted in Vancouver with 972 of those in the Downtown Eastside. Vancouver has 13% of BC’s population so 13% of 2900 units is 377 units of housing for Vancouver, not even enough to help one quarter of Vancouver’s homeless people.
Probably this will be the last big housing spending announcement from the Liberal government for years. If so, that $500 million will have to last until the next government in 2021. Meanwhile abysmally low welfare and disability rates are churning out more and more homeless people. Last year the number of newly homeless people in Vancouver was about 1100.
And, we still don’t know if the NDP would build social housing for low-income people if they were elected because they haven’t released their plans. During the last election they said they would build “up to” 1200 units of social housing a year for the province. “Up to” could mean 1 or 6 or 0 as well as 1200. And 1200 a year is way lower than the 10,000 units a year that many groups are now calling for.
The Liberal government is also saying that some of this money will be used in partnership with private developers. They say the housing will be for a number of groups including women, children, indigenous people, and people with developmental disabilities. This is important, but they don’t say the housing will be for people who are homeless.