B.C. government strikes ‘affordable housing’ deal with United Church of Canada

Friday, April 13th, 2018

One project calls for 100 new homes built at Lakeview United Church on Semlin Drive

Mike Howell
Vancouver Courier

The provincial government will spend $12.4 million to help the B.C. Conference of the United Church of Canada redevelop some of its land in Vancouver, Coquitlam, Nanaimo and Richmond into a total of 414 new “affordable” rental homes.

The homes will be geared to individuals, families and seniors who earn between $50,000 and $120,000 and rents will range between $700 and $3,000 per month, according to information released by the government Friday following Premier John Horgan’s announcement in Coquitlam.

Horgan announced the funding at the Como Lake United Church in Coquitlam, which will see 75 homes built on the property. A project in Nanaimo at Brechin United Church calls for 74 units and 165 more will be built at Brighhouse United Church in Richmond.

In Vancouver, Lakeview United Church at 2776 Semlin Dr. is expected to begin construction on 100 new units in July 2020. The homes will be offered to people with incomes ranging between $48,520 and $108,994. Rents will begin at $1,200 and climb to $2,700 per month, depending on size of the unit.

“Single-bedroom condos in the sky are not for everyone, and although that’s an important part of the housing stock, there’s a whole bunch of other housing that needs to be built,” Horgan told the crowd at the church, which included Housing Minister Selina Robinson and the three mayors of the Tri-Cities.

The projects are part of the government’s newly created “HousingHub,” which aims to broker agreements with non-profits, developers, faith groups, property owners, local and federal governments and Indigenous organizations to locate, use or redevelop land in communities where affordability is an issue.

“The province is backstopping the start [of the projects], and the developer will build it and will be compensated by the owner of the land, who will be compensated at the sale of the property,” Horgan said.

Developers will receive low-cost financing in exchange for building the housing, some of which will also be available for purchase through a government program. The Housing Hub is part of the government’s 30-point housing plan announced in February and is being overseen by the City of Vancouver’s former head of real estate services, Michael Flanigan.

Terry Harrison of the B.C. Conference of the United Church of Canada pointed out their churches are getting old and congregations are decreasing in numbers. Harrison said the church’s agreement with the government is part of a province-wide strategy to repurpose under-used properties.

“Since the United Church is blessed with so much property, and property is integral to affordable housing, it’s an approach that makes a lot of sense,” Harrison said. “While it’s imperative that we use these assets for the United Church, we must also provide practical benefits for the wider community. That’s sort of our ying-yang. Our faith teaches us to serve those in need. And here and now, one of the greatest needs is affordable housing for middle-income families.”

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