Vancouver— An investment of $34 million to purchase or lease 15 new properties to create and protect social housing will increase the number of locations acquired by the Province by 50 per cent, bringing the total number to 45, Premier Gordon Campbell announced today.
«We are taking action now to ensure that supportive housing is available for those who need it,» said Premier Campbell. «An acquisition of this size and scope is a major step forward in protecting and expanding our supply of social housing and helping to break the cycle of homelessness in communities across the province.»
The Province is investing $34 million to acquire 15 properties, located in 10 communities, which will provide over 600 units of housing with integrated support services. This acquisition brings the total number of properties acquired by the Province since 2001 to protect and create affordable housing to 45, and the total number of units in those properties to almost 2,030.
The mix of properties includes single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels, apartments, former care facilities and a therapeutic community. Nearly half of the units are currently vacant. Occupancy of these units will take place throughout 2009, as any required renovations are completed. Some properties already have non-profit operators in place to provide much-needed support services. For the others, the Province is identifying experienced non-profit societies to operate the housing and provide integrated support services. «These additional units of supportive housing in Vancouver are another step towards ending homelessness — my number-one priority and the priority of many people who live in this community,» said Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. «This is the first time funding has been provided to lease SRO hotels, which enables us to respond quickly to the urgent need for safe, affordable housing and access to appropriate support services.»
In Vancouver, six SRO hotels are being acquired to protect 341 units of affordable housing — four through outright purchases and two through five-year renewable leases. SRO hotels are an important source of affordable housing, particularly for residents of the Downtown Eastside. Over 140 of these units are vacant and will be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2009.
«These newly acquired single-room occupancy hotels will become a place of security and new-found hope for many,» said Jim Chu, chief constable, Vancouver Police Department. «I look forward to seeing the positive changes in the Downtown Eastside because of the growing numbers of housing with integrated support services being made available to the homeless.»
Five of the acquisitions, including the two leased SRO hotels, are receiving grants from the Housing Endowment Fund (HEF), which supports innovative housing solutions that address housingneeds not adequately served through existing housing programs. In addition to the leased SRO hotels, the program is funding Highland Valley, a therapeutic community near Logan Lake. HEF grants are also supporting a pilot project to create an affordable manufactured home site at River Run Homes in Nanaimo and the purchase of the Acadia, a 24-unit apartment building in Kamloops.
The $250-million Housing Endowment Fund was established in the 2007 Provincial Budget. The fund generates investment revenue, which is used to fund new ideas and support innovative housing solutions that meet the diverse housing needs of British Columbians.
The balance of the acquisitions are being made under the umbrella of the Provincial Homelessness Initiative (PHI), launched as a result of the Premier’s Task Force on Homelessness, Mental Illness and Addictions. The objective of the PHI is to break the cycle of homelessness by integrating support services with housing so people may move beyond temporary shelter to more secure housing, gain greater self-reliance, and achieve appropriate employment .
The PHI is an important component of the provincial housing strategy, Housing Matters BC. Increasing the supply of affordable housing and reducing homelessness are key elements of the strategy. Since 2004, the province has committed to the creation of more than 4,000 new and upgraded housing units under PHI.
Through Housing Matters BC, Budget 2008 increased the amount the Province invests in affordable housing and shelters to more than $400 million a year, more than three times as much as in 2001.
Link to More Information:
Backgrounder — BC Housing www.bchousing.org