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. The focus of this plan is to create conditions that prevent homelessness and quickly support those who have become homeless. In addition, The City of Abbotsford is currently working on an affordable housing strategy update.
Housing Needs Report
The City of Abbotsford commissioned the Housing Needs Report to formulate a more complete picture of how Abbotsford's changing needs would influence housing requirements. This work follows under the Government of BC's 2018 Housing Needs Reports legislation requiring all local governments to collect and analyze data identifying current and future housing needs, legislation stemming from the emergence of these pressures in many BC Communities.
In 2020, Abbotsford City Council adopted the Affordable Housing Strategy which guides the City’s investment in and decisions about affordable housing in Abbotsford.
The 2016 update to Abbotsford’s OCP set out a vision for a future city of 200,000 people and identifies key aspirations that underpin the overarching vision statement – which reads as follows: Abbotsford is a city of distinct and increasingly complete neighbourhoods rich with public life. Our compact urban area is anchored by a thriving City Centre and surrounded by remarkable natural areas and flourishing agricultural lands. We are diverse, inclusive and connected. We are green prosperous and healthy. We are a vibrant and beautiful community.
One of these key aspirations is that the City have more affordable ownership, rental, and supported housing including a variety of housing types for all stages of life, allowing people to stay in their neighbourhoods as they age. This aspirational statement sets the direction for specific actions, policies and measures that the City can take with regards to diverse and affordable housing options.
The Affordable Housing Strategy updates identifies potential actions and tasks that could be undertaken by the City and its partners over the next five years, in order to build on current and emerging funding programs from both provincial and federal governments. With substantive changes in capital funding available both through the Province of British Columbia and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in the last two to three years, a five-year time frame was selected to ensure that Abbotsford remains responsive to potential changes in funding priorities from senior government.
Functionally, the plan provides 2 key Strategy Areas where the City can apply a focus over the next 5 years.
Increase the availability of diverse housing options for all stages of life across the housing continuum.
The following actions are intended to build on existing City-led measures to develop and protect a range of new housing forms. Specifically, they prioritize areas that can make projects more viable (incentives) or strengthen investment from other funding sources (land acquisition).
- Use local government levers to facilitate affordable housing development and diversify housing options.
- Increase funding and investment supports for affordable housing projects.
- Explore land acquisition opportunities.
- Preserve and maintain existing affordable housing stock.
Collaborate and innovate with existing and new community partners in the delivery, preservation, and operation of housing options.
The following actions are intended to inform the City’s response to emerging federal and provincial housing investments. They ensure that the City and its partners are well-positioned to access the resources and programs over the next five to ten years put in place through these programs.
- Identify opportunities to implement the Housing Strategy through federal and provincial funding programs, and community partnerships with Indigenous, non-profit and private sector partners.
- Work with partners to advocate to increase investment in housing in Abbotsford and collaborate on solutions.
- Build local capacity and knowledge to innovate on housing.
- Develop education and outreach approaches for engaging with residents and stakeholders around affordable housing.
- The Plan also identifies tasks for the City pertaining to Strategy implementation as follows
As with any municipal strategy, recognizing the links between this Housing Strategy, and the OCP and other existing master plans is critical to the success of this Strategy. The considerations below are less about concrete and discrete actions that will impact the development of housing across the continuum, and more about ensuring that specific considerations are given to internal alignment with existing plans and policies.
Ensure that Housing Priorities Align with Existing Plans
This Housing Strategy takes direction from the OCP and stakeholder and community engagement in recommending specific actions and tasks. However, there are a number of other plans that should be considered during implementation. The following should be considered in implementing the Housing Strategy:
- Neighbourhood Plans
- Transportation and Transit Master Plan
- Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan
- Homelessness in Abbotsford Action Plan
Some of the most impactful actions the City can take regarding housing, such as identifying existing City land appropriate for development or the incentivization or particular types of housing, could cost resources. Appropriate municipal financial planning will be a key component of ensuring that the City can adequately resource the commitments articulated in this Strategy.
Additionally, the extent to which the City is able and willing to incentivize a range of types of housing may need to be prioritized based on the level of need in the community and what level of affordability that development is able to offer. For example, a market rental building may be offered modest parking reductions and a partial or no waiver of DCCs, while developments with deeper affordability may receive a full DCC waiver and a more significant reduction of parking requirements. Determining the extent of these incentives will allow the City to maximize the impacts it can make with regards to new housing and limited resources.
As noted above, neighbourhood plans are core plans that need to be considered when implementing this Strategy. Additionally, working with neighbourhoods proactively to identify opportunities for suitable affordable housing developments can be key in reducing neighbourhood resistance to new affordable developments. Strategy 1 identifies tasks for identifying potential land and sites for affordable housing, while Strategy 2 identifies tasks that provide direction on how this can be implemented. Ensuring that neighbours and neighbourhoods remain informed about potential developments and are able to provide input at key junctures will be vital to the success of future projects.
Supportive housing provides a range of on-site life skills, non-clinical supports and connections to health care services.
The City of Abbotsford, BC Housing have partnered on the following supportive housing projects:
- Hearthstone Place - offers 30 units of supportive housing for men and women; Operated by Abbotsford Community Services
- Christine Lamb Residences - offers 40 units of supportive housing for women and children; Operated by SARA for Women
- George Schmidt Supported Housing - offers 30 units on the Kinghaven Campus of Care; Operated by Kinghaven
Additionally, BC Housing is working with the City of Abbotsford, Look Out Society and Elizabeth Fry Society to provide 80+ units of supportive housing as a rapid response for individuals to exit homelessness. These projects are targeted for occupancy in Fall 2018. These units will come with Fraser Health Authority health services and Abbotsford Homelessness Prevention and Response System support.
In addition, Mamele’awt Qweesome To’o Housing Society in partnership with Abbotsford Community Services, BC Housing and the City of Abbotsford, secured and approved 60 units of affordable rental housing for families and youth transitioning from care.