Affordable Housing in Abbotsford
Housing affordability is a challenge for many Abbotsford residents. This situation is the result of factors such as sustained population growth in the Lower Mainland, a restricted land supply, and rising development costs. Homelessness is the most visible aspect of the City’s housing affordability issue but many other residents are also facing the challenge of finding safe, appropriate and affordable housing in both the ownership and rental segments of the market.
The following statistics tell a brief ‘story’ of the challenges many Abbotsford residents face.
- 151 homeless people counted in 2014 (FVRD Homelessness Count)
- 24% of all households in Abbotsford spend more than 30% of income on housing (2011 National Household Survey)
- 39% of renters spend more than 30% of income on housing (2011 National Household Survey)
- Over 160 households are on the waitlist for BC Housing, with families representing approximately 40% of those on the waitlist
- 14% of all households in Abbotsford are considered low income (2011 National Household Survey)
Affordable and accessible housing is identified as a priority area in Abbotsford Cares. One of the report recommendations was to develop an Affordable Housing Strategy to determine how to facilitate a continuum of safe, affordable housing, adequate income, and a range of support services for community members in need of assistance.
Affordable Housing Strategy
In 2011, Council adopted the Affordable Housing Strategy which guides the City’s investment in and decisions about affordable housing in Abbotsford.
The strategy’s vision is that “all residents of Abbotsford live in safe, stable, appropriate housing that is affordable for their income level.” Five objectives further define how to achieve this vision:
- Preserve existing affordable housing units
- Build new affordable housing units
- Improve people’s ability to afford housing
- Create complete, connected, and liveable neighbourhoods with diverse housing types and tenures
- Pursue senior government, community agencies, and the development industry for partnerships
Task Force on Homelessness
In March 2014, Council announced the formation of a Task Force on Homelessness for Abbotsford. Council directed the Task Force to work closely with all levels of the community to design and initiate a comprehensive community wide homelessness response plan. In October 2014, the Task Force on Homelessness completed a Homelessness in Abbotsford Action Plan, and Appendices, including a list of five key strategic directions and priority action items that address homelessness in our community.
Affordable Housing Fund
In 2007 the City enacted a density bonusing policy as a way to generate revenue for encouraging and creating additional affordable housing projects in Abbotsford. In 2010 Council approved the Affordable Housing Opportunities Reserve Fund Policy and the Affordable Housing Capital Reserve Fund Bylaw No. 1996-2010, formalizing two Affordable Housing Funds for developing affordable housing.
Collectively, the Funds have supported four projects so far, with total contributions of more than $450,000:
- Extreme Weather Shelter Program (emergency shelter spaces across Abbotsford when winter weather conditions make sleeping overnight outdoors life threatening to people who are homeless)
- Elizabeth Fry Firth Residence project (22 units of transitional housing to women and women with children, helping them break cycles of addiction, poverty and homelessness)
- Lynnhaven Society (64 units of furnished rental housing to seniors on very low income)
- Habitat for Humanity (one unit of very affordable ownership housing for a low income family)
BC Housing MOU
The City of Abbotsford and Province of British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2008 to develop supportive housing in Abbotsford, joining five other BC municipalities with MOUs: Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Coquitlam. The MOU was in response to a growing need for affordable housing for people who were homeless, identified in several regional homelessness studies. The MOU established a process for selecting non-profit operators and identifying target residents. The total investment by the Province was estimated to be about $20 million for capital, plus ongoing operation support for each project.
Two projects have been completed through the MOU partnership, the Christine Lamb Residence and George Schmidt Centre. Christine Lamb provides 41 units of supportive housing for women and children who are at risk of homelessness, and is operated by the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley. George Schmidt provides 30 units of supportive housing to men who are at risk of homelessness and is operated by Kinghaven Peardonville House Society.