Affordable condo program doesn’t deliver on councillors’ expectations
City has acquired only 21 condo units for affordable housing since 2008
CBC News
Laura Osman
10 March 2015

A program that was supposed to provide hundreds of homes for people in need has fallen far short of councillors' expectations, and they now want real targets put in place.

So far, the city has only purchased 21 condo units for homeEd, the city’s non-profit housing organization, since 2008.

“Twenty-one units in six years is not a success,” said Coun. Amarjeet Sohi at a committee meeting on Tuesday.

The affordable condo program allows the city to buy five per cent of units in new developments at 85 per cent of market value.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said he expected far more from the program after so many years.

“There’s been unprecedented number of development permits for multi-family housing, so it could have been hundreds and hundreds, and it didn’t generate those numbers,” Anderson said.

City staff said one reason for the small number of units being purchased is that many of the condo complexes, where the city might buy units, have not yet been built.

Since the program began, the city has approved 40 buildings with the condition they can purchase units for affordable housing. Of those 40 buildings only 21 units in 12 buildings have been purchased by the city.

“they were too expensive”

So far, the city has only declined the option to buy units in two projects, including the Pearl Tower on Jasper Avenue, because they were too expensive.

Anderson said the idea to require developers to set aside condo units for affordable housing was developed “willy-nilly” and was never formalized with a city policy.

“It simply came out of somebody’s brain at a public hearing,”

“It simply came out of somebody’s brain at a public hearing,” Anderson said.

He said the practice was repeated with new condo developments until it eventually became routine.

Coun. Ben Henderson countered that serious thought was given to the idea, and said he was asked to serve on an advisory board to look at affordable housing before he was elected.

But he called the lack of formal policy an “unfinished piece of work that has been pending now for seven years.”

Walter Trocenko, support services manager, said creating a formal policy will make the decisions about which condo units are purchased “totally transparent.”

Councillors asked city staff to draft a formal policy by June, and include concrete targets so they can measure the success of the program.

The goal is for the program to eventually be self sustaining, as rents for existing units help fund the purchase of new ones.

A 15% discount on the price of new condos does not make them a great deal for the city. No wonder they only bought 21 of them.

I can't figure out how buying new condo units for affordable housing can ever become self-sustaining. How "profitable" can affordable rents be?


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