Editorial: Affordable housing is no longer affordable

What is affordable housing?

If the term even still applies – and that’s debatable – it certainly means something other to most than what it means to the government.

This week, Premier John Horgan was in Courtenay to announce a new “mid-income affordable housing” project.

RELATED: Horgan announces new rental project for Courtenay

The announcement laid out a project in the Crown Isle area, being built through BC Housing’s HousingHub, which was created by the Province in 2018, to help create new affordable rental housing and homeownership options for middle-income British Columbians.

The new rental homes are designed to be “affordable for households with annual incomes ranging between $48,000 and $74,000, with rental costs at 30 per cent or lower of household income.”

Sounds great, until you hear what the rents are. Monthly rents will range from approximately $1,200 for a studio, to $1,650 for a two-bedroom and $1,850 for a large two-bedroom rental.

First, the idea that the government considers a household income of $48,000-$74,000 as “middle-income” is laughable.

According to the 2018 Vital Signs report, the median household income in the Comox Valley, in 2015, was $76,510.

Considering that statistic increased by 10 per cent from 2012 to 2015, it’s reasonable to assume that the median income in the Comox Valley in 2020 is at least $80,000.

By definition, the median is the exact middle, which begs the question: what formula is the B.C. government using to determine “mid-income?”

More importantly, how can paying $1,850 for a two-bedroom apartment be considered “affordable housing?”

It can’t. And it certainly isn’t affordable, at least not to those in the earning bracket being targeted.

Here’s the problem.

Someone, somewhere, 40 years ago, determined that affordable housing means paying no more than 30 per cent of your income on housing-related expenses. That might have been accurate in 1980, but the cost of living has climbed exponentially faster than the income level in the past 40 years.

The solution would be to get rid of the antiquated formula that is no longer relevant, and replace it.

The rate being charged for affordable housing should be based on net income. A family making $70,000 per year is not bringing home any more than $50,000 (and that’s being generous). Yet, under an “affordable housing” calculation, a landlord can charge up to 30 per cent of $70,000, which works out to $1,750 per month. That’s $21,000 per year – 42 per cent of that family’s take-home pay.

That is not affordable, or sustainable. Is it any wonder there’s a housing crisis?

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