New city hall photo

Affordable Housing and Homelessness

Setting the Record Straight

Posted January, 2017


In BC, the delivery of homelessness and housing programs and funding are provided by the federal and provincial governments. The City of Abbotsford, like all municipalities in BC, receives funding from both levels of government to support both housing matters and homelessness issues in our community.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Government of BC

At the provincial level, the Honourable Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development & Responsible for Housing is charged with implementing the 2014 provincial housing strategy "Housing Matters BC". The strategy addresses everything from homelessness to home ownership. It focuses on improving access to housing and supports for those who need help the most. Since it began, it has directed more than $2.5 billion in housing programs and infrastructure. The province’s housing strategy is being implemented through the operations of BC Housing.

Government of Canada

Federally, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), has direct responsibility for the provision of housing support. In March 2016, the Government of Canada through its budget speech announced the intention to invest $2.3 billion over two years, starting in 2016–17 in Affordable Housing initiatives. To ensure that these investments are most effective and to help the social housing sector achieve self-reliance, the Government  has indicated it will consult with provinces and territories, Indigenous and other communities, and key stakeholders to develop a National Housing Strategy. A National Housing Strategy for Canada will set a long-term vision for housing in Canada; establish core policy areas and desired housing outcomes; address gaps in the housing system, especially for those in greatest need; recognize the importance of housing to achieve other social, economic and environmental goals; and include a focus on improving housing outcomes of Indigenous peoples and for those who live in Canada’s three territories. From June to October 2016, the Government of Canada asked Canadians to share their opinions, insights and ideas for the future of housing in Canada through their Let’s Talk Housing survey. This survey will inform the development of the National Housing Strategy.

City of Abbotsford

The City of Abbotsford believes that housing is the cornerstone of any community, providing shelter for households, establishing a foundation for realizing peoples’ potential, and enabling their participation in society and the economy. Funding for affordable housing initiatives in Abbotsford is received from both the Provincial and Federal Governments. To support the opportunity for funding to be provided to our community, in June of 2016, the City adopted a new Official Community Plan that provides provisions for ensuring affordable housing is considered as development occurs in the community.

HOMELESSNESS

Government of BC

At the provincial level, the Honourable Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development & Responsible for Housing is charged with implementing the 2014 provincial housing strategy "Housing Matters BC". The strategy addresses everything from homelessness to home ownership. It focuses on improving access to housing and supports for those who need help the most. Since it began, it has directed more than $2.5 billion in housing programs and infrastructure. The province’s housing strategy is being implemented through the operations of BC Housing.

Government of Canada

The federal government provides funding for programs that address homelessness through Housing First initiatives through Service Canada’s Homeless Partner Strategy. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to 61 designated communities and to organizations that address Aboriginal homelessness across Canada.

City of Abbotsford

In 2014 Abbotsford City Council’s Task Force on Homelessness developed a plan with the goal of ensuring that everyone in Abbotsford has a home. While the importance of having emergency supports in place for people who have become homeless is understood, the focus of this plan is to also create conditions that prevent homelessness and quickly support those who have become homeless to again have a home. 

In order to achieve this intention, the Task Force on Homelessness developed five strategic directions to guide the Homelessness Action Plan. With these strategic directions and principles in mind, the Task Force further developed recommended priority actions under each strategic direction. It is understood that the City of Abbotsford may not necessarily be the organization that takes the lead on the implementation of all of these actions, but that the City will work with BC Housing, Fraser Health Authority and service provider organizations to ensure each of these recommendations is addressed.

In 2015 the City hired a Homelessness Coordinator specifically dedicated to addressing the five strategic directions, as well as ensuring that our community receives needed support from other levels of government. Abbotsford City Council also created a Homelessness Action Advisory Committee to help support the implementation of the strategic directions. Abbotsford City Council received an update on actions to date on December 12, 2016

In May 2015, Service Canada provided the City of Abbotsford with $400,989 in contribution funding towards the research and development of a Coordinated Intake and Referral model to support individuals, who are experiencing homelessness, to access appropriate housing and support connections. The model has been designed with local housing and service provider input, as well as, best practice information. The research project has been leveraged in a number of ways through the course of this work:

  • Regional Housing First Best Practice Forum with over 175 attendees and a Mayor's and Elected Official Roundtable discussion
  • Web-based housing search tool that has been incorporated into the City's Economic Development Web Mapping Tools
  • Development of the Abbotsford Rental Connect initiative, which received an additional $50,000 from Service Canada for the community business case and implementation plan development.
  • Support to develop an inter-agency Coordinated Outreach Team to provide basic outreach and essential services for individuals, who are experiencing homelessness.
  • Service needs assessment for both formal and informal support connections.
  • Service coordination and capacity building through inter-agency participation and partnerships between City of Abbotsford, local organizations,  Fraser Health Authority, BC Housing, Ministry of Social Development and Innovation, and Service Canada.

In Fall 2015, the City contributed land and a capital contribution towards the construction of a 30-unit supportive housing development.  BC Housing is providing capital financing and operating funding.  Abbotsford Community Services will be the housing provider. Occupancy is targeted for early 2017.

In December 2015, the City worked with its Homelessness Action Advisory Committee to complete a feasibility study for a low barrier shelter.  The City provided land and $750,000 in capital towards the installation and servicing of a modular structure.  BC Housing committed operating funding and awarded the operator's contract to Look Out Society to provide a 40-space co-ed shelter.  

Spring 2015, through Service Canada funding contributions and City facilitation of a multi-stakeholder research design team, a Collaborative Roadmap to Respond to and Prevent Homelessness was developed to articulate clearly what the community-action priorities are with respect to the Homelessness in Abbotsford Action Plan.  Several initiatives are underway, such as the ones listed in this section.  Phase 2 of the work will be conducted in Spring 2017 to develop a Performance Measurement Framework to support stakeholders to focus on the shared outcomes of the work and leverage capital and operating funding opportunities for both housing and support programs.

Spring/Summer 2015, outreach services were enhanced in Abbotsford, including:

  • Fraser Health Authority is providing Assertive Care Team services to Abbotsford for individuals with persistent mental health issues.
  • Abbotsford Community Services was awarded the Homelessness Prevention Program to provide outreach support and housing placement assistance for individuals and families to further prevent homelessness.
  • The City advocated for the placement of a Ministry of Social Development and Innovation Integration Outreach Worker, which has been in place in Abbotsford since the Summer of 2015.

A comprehensive Homelessness Response System is being piloted in the Spring 2017, which will include:

  1. Increasing the supportive housing stock;
  2. Ensuring that support and service connections are being offered through the Abbotsford Shelter System;
  3. Implementation of an Integrated Case Management Team to support individuals with persistent addictions and/or mental health issues to access housing and health/community service support connections
  4. Launching of the Coordinated Intake and Referral Model to support individuals with access to housing and supports
  5. Continued development and implementation of Abbotsford Rental Connect, which will foster supported landlord-tenant relationships with service agency supports
  6. On-going systems and service coordination.

The above initiatives have been made possible through strong working relationships and partnerships with senior levels of government and local community stakeholders.

The City of Abbotsford continues to work with local Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), BC Housing, as well as the Fraser Health Authority and service provider organizations at the local level to help in supporting the delivery of housing and homelessness programs and services for our community.