Report from Research Committee of Social Housing Coalition on how many units of social housing we should demand

The housing situation in BC is like an iceberg. Thousands of people who have no homes at all (absolutely homeless) are at the tip of it; thousands more who are homeless but not counted (hidden homeless) are under the water, and tens of thousands more are at risk of homelessness, deep in the water. People who are homeless or at risk of homelessness include Aboriginal people, seniors, people who work, immigrants and people without citizenship status, single parents, couples with children, people with mental and physical disabilities. People at risk of homelessness move in and out of each group. Research on the numbers in each category is not perfect but it is possible to piece together a range of numbers from what is available.

These are the numbers that the Research Committee was able to find about people who are absolutely homeless, hidden homeless, relatively homeless and at risk of homelessness. Much of this general research was done by Stephen Blumstein:

Low estimate High estimate
Absolutely homeless
(living on the street or
in shelters)
10,500 18,000
Hidden homeless
(living in a car, with family
or friends)
38,061 78,550
At risk of losing homes
(renter households paying over
30% of income for housing)
66,500 133,000 (4–CCPA)
Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Housing in Canada On-Line, based on the 2006 Census. Cited in BC%20Office/2010/09/CCPA-BC-SPARC-Unpacking-Housing-Numbers.pdf
Rough subtotal of house-
holds with insecure housing
115,061 229,550

Note: These figures are estimates. Some are taken from as far back as 2006 and do not account for population growth. Several hundred people who are absolutely homeless, among the hidden homelessness and at risk of homelessness have been housed in new social housing since 2008.

In addition

  • More units needed to accommodate population growth
    The BC Non Profit Housing Association predicts that the province will acquire 2263 to 2732 new households who are in core need (needing a social housing unit) every year until 2021. After 2021 the number of units needed per year shrinks slightly.
    Source: 15_Greater_Vancouver_120921.pdf
  • Operating agreements of existing social housing are expiring
    Over the next 20 years operating agreements of existing co-ops and BC Housing units will expire. This means that no government subsidy will be available to maintain the units and housing providers “must survive on their rental revenues alone.” Over 40,000 units in BC could be affected with units for Aboriginal people being most impacted because they are funded by the federal government and have many residents who pay rent based on their low incomes.
    Sources: present-crisis-the-expiry-of-social-housing-funding-in-b-c/
  • Aboriginal people are homeless more than other groups
    This section written by Glen Coulthard
    Here are the results of preliminary research into the housing needs of on and off-reserve Aboriginal people in BC. It should be noted that on-reserve numbers are a bit hard to nail down, especially for BC alone. All indicators suggest that there is a looming crisis in Aboriginal housing needs both on and off-reserve, and unless something is done about it it will get significantly worse over the next 25 years. I have focused on the on off-reserve numbers because they are more BC specific and within the province’s jurisdiction. Although housing for the on-reserve population is a federal jurisdiction, it is recognized by both BC and Canada that any comprehensive housing strategy for Aboriginal peoples will need to coordinate multiple levels of government because “the housing issues on and off reserve are intricately related and impact each other” (Aboriginal Housing in BC, 2007: VI).

    The information derived in this overview is drawn primarily from 3 sources: (1) Final Report of the Aboriginal Housing in British Columbia: Needs and Capacity Assessment (March31, 2007); (2) BC Office of Housing and Construction Standards, Developing an Off-Reserve Aboriginal Action Plan for British Columbia (January 2008); (3) Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Evaluation of INAC’s On-Reserve Housing Support (September 29, 2010).

    1. Off-Reserve:
      All available research indicates that the need for Aboriginal housing on reserve will substantially increase over the next decades as a relatively young Aboriginal population (of 46% are under the age of 25) ages. It is estimates that the number of Aboriginal elders will triple over the next ten years (Aboriginal Housing in BC, VIII).

      There are roughly 63,870 Aboriginal households residing off-reserve in BC, of which more than 28% (i.e., more than 1,260 households) are in demonstrated “core housing need.” Most Aboriginal people in BC now live off reserve, approximately 70%.

      Homelessness is a critical issue for Aboriginal people in both rural and urban settings. It is estimated that Aboriginal people constitute at least 30% of the homeless population in the Greater Vancouver regional district, even though Aboriginal peoples make up only 4% of the general population (Aboriginal Housing Action Plan, 3).

      As of 2007, off-reserve Aboriginal housing in BC had an estimated 10,000 applications on waitlists, which did not include people who inquired about Aboriginal housing but were to discouraged by the numbers to submit an application. We can also assume that the roughly 30,000 waitlists for non-Aboriginal, non-profit housing in BC also included Aboriginal applicants (Aboriginal Housing in BC, VII).

      As of 2007, there was approximately 4,500 Aboriginal low-income housing units across BC. They are divided up as such:

      1. Urban Native non-Profits: 3,350.
      2. Rural and Native housing units: 500
      3. Units managed by BC Housing or Independent Living BC. These units are not exclusively Aboriginal but are used by many Aboriginal people.



    2. On-Reserve:
      All credible research conducted into the condition of on-reserve housing highlights the continued need for federal support. It is recognized that this is a “shortfall” in reserve housing and that this shortfall will continue to grow as First Nations population demographics rise over the next 25 years. Between 2010 and 2026 the population of on-reserve children between 0-8 is expected to increase by 18.4%. During the same period a 40% increase in on-reserve adults under the age of 65 and a more than doubling of the on-reserve elder population.

      The federal government recognizes that, although First Nations on-reserve housing stock has increased between 1996 and 2010, this increase has been outstripped by First Nations population growth and subsequent housing needs. It is also important to note that these needs include more land upon which increased housing is dependent (INAC, Evaluation of INAC On-Reserve Housing Report, 2010).

      In BC on-reserve housing is habitually in need of more repairs, is over-crowded, and is of poorer quality that non-Aboriginal housing. As of 2001, INAC estimated that there was a shortfall of 8,500 units of on reserve housing and that 44% of existing units required significant renovations; Aboriginal organizations in 2004 estimated a shortage of 80,000 units of on-reserve housing.

  • Migrants and people without citizenship status are vulnerable to homelessness
    This section written by Sozan Savehiaghi

    Immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, temporary foreign workers and non-status people are over represented in the hidden homeless category, using social and cultural networks to avoid absolute homelessness, but ending up in overcrowded and unhealthy housing. Incidence of core housing needs decreases the longer immigrants reside in BC; however even after 40 years of living in the province immigrants still have slightly higher likelihood of needing core housing. The most vulnerable of these populations are the very recently arrived immigrants, refugee claimants, temporary foreign workers and non-status people.

    A 2012 study by Metropolis BC[1], a research centre on immigration, found that being able to afford housing is the main issue for newcomers. Most newcomers surveyed “spend at least 50% of their income on housing.” The study also found about 15% of people they surveyed spent 75% or more of their income on housing. The study points out that access to decent and affordable housing for newcomers is more difficult because of relatively lower incomes, higher incidents of discrimination, less access to public/subsidized housing such as BC Housing for large families and single immigrants with citizenship and the fact that people without citizenship are restricted from accessing BC Housing units at all.
    CMHC census-based housing indicators and data from the 2006[2] demonstrate that close to 183,000 immigrants and non-permanent residents in British Columbia were in need of core housing. The numbers for the City of Vancouver in 2006 were approximately 155,000 (non-permanent residents is defined by Stats-can as people who “held a Work or Study Permit or who were refugee claimants, at the time of the census. Family members living with these persons are also classified as non-permanent residents”).

[1] Francis, J., Hiebert, D., & Metropolis British Columbia. (2012). Shaky foundations: Precarious housing and hidden homelessness among refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in metro Vancouver. Vancouver, B.C: Metropolis British Columbia. uploads/files/wp/2011/WP11-18.pdf
[2] Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, 2011, “Core Housing Need Status for the Population, by Selected Characteristics and Gender, Canada, Provinces and Metropolitan Areas, 2006”

Recommendation from Social Housing Research Committee to the Coalition:
That we ask for 10,000 units per year of new social housing to be built, and that this housing:

  • be covered by the Residential Tenancy Act,
  • be built with government funds, not in partnership with private sector developers, and
  • be affordable to people on welfare who will not have to move, but can pay 30% of their income if they go off welfare.

Ten thousand units per year have been built in Vienna during several periods of its history. In BC 10,000 units per year would include about 2700 units per year to deal with population growth and the remaining 7300 units per year to end absolute and hidden homelessness and provide secure homes for people at risk of losing their housing. If government built 10,000 units a year it would still take about 16 years (at the low end of range) to about 32 years (high end of range) to wipe out the BC housing security deficit. At the end of that time social housing construction would still be needed to deal with population growth if the population was growing.

Source: Unpublished paper, Social Housing in Vienna, prepared for Social Housing Coalition by Jeff Derkson

Cost and Benefits
With city provided land, and each unit estimated to cost around $200,000 to build, 10,000 units per year would be an investment of about $2 billion a year or about 1% of BC Gross Domestic Product. This represents a capital investment that would create jobs and help stimulate the economy. With low income people having decent housing, health costs would go down and more of their spending money would be available to help the economy. The BC economic multiplier model says 6.5 direct jobs are created per $1 million invested in construction. Therefore, 13,000 direct jobs would result from an investment of $2 billion (more if one also includes both indirect and induced job creation).

Source: G Horne, “2004 British Columbia Provincial Economic Multipliers and How to Use Them,” Victoria: BC Stats, 2008

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