With the highest homeless count ever in Vancouver, what will the Federal budget, expected on Wednesday, do to provide housing for people who are homeless and can only afford $375 a month for rent?
How to estimate how many housing units Vancouver could get with federal money announced in the budget:
- A new unit of social housing for a single person in a city costs about $250,000 to build. If the city provided land, it would be about $200,000 per unit.
- Governments usually announce a certain amount of money over a certain number of years in their budgets. Divide the amount by the number of years to get the annual amount.
- The Government will probably announce the amount available for the whole country. To figure out how much of that BC and Vancouver are likely to get, multiply it by 13% for BC and 13% of the BC amount for Vancouver. That’s because BC has about 13% of Canada’s population and Vancouver has about 13% of BC’s population.
- Make sure you look for an amount of money that is designated to reduce homelessness. Money designated for social housing in general or repairs probably won’t help homeless people as they don’t live in social housing now and won’t be able to afford market level and just below market level rents.
- Calculate how many people are in need of housing. Looking at recent homeless counts is a start. For example, the number of homeless people counted in Vancouver in 2016 was 1847 (the 2017 count tally is not expected to be released until April). However, the homeless count does not include hidden homeless, people at risk of homelessness or the thousands of people living in inadequate and overcrowded housing conditions.
Here’s an example. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is calling on the federal government to provide $350 million per year to tackle homelessness (page 15 ). Some of this would be for shelters and other priorities of different communities. But if it were all used to build housing for homeless people, $350 million per year across Canada would result in about $45.5 million for BC (which has about 13% of Canada’s population) and a mere $5.9 million for Vancouver with about 13% of BC’s population–at most 30 units per year for the 1847 homeless people counted in Vancouver in 2016.
Two important facts about homelessness to always keep in mind:
- Homeless people have about half the life expectancy as other BC residents
- It’s cheaper to house homeless people than keeping them on the street.