How will the city balance affordability with growth?
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
It seems that the City of New Westminster has wasted no time in passing projects to aid those struggling to afford housing. New Westminster can also expect to see a surge in property purchases as prospective homeowners are pushed out of Vancouver and into its surrounding municipalities.
The city is seeking to open a rent bank and a six-unit affordable housing project in the near future, as sponsored by city council and MLA Judy Darcy. These projects will undoubtedly benefit those earning little income and those at risk of homelessness. However, as real estate becomes more desirable projects like these may be cast aside in the future in lieu of fostering a competitive housing market.
New Westminster’s rent bank started when several people visited Darcy’s constituency office in search of a temporary financial solution.
“So many people are living paycheque to paycheque. If some crisis strikes, and you are living paycheque to paycheque, then where do you go to pay your next month’s rent? That, we are hearing of more and more. It could be they are waiting for a cheque that they know is going to come,” Darcy said to the New Westminster Record.
The rent bank will work similar to a loan. However, unlike payday loans, it will offer a low rate of interest. Rent banks in Ontario have achieved a level of success in alleviating a homeless crisis there, and in BC rent banks are currently available in Vancouver, Surrey, and Kamloops.
“Sometimes we get in the habit of focusing too much on the issue of homelessness after it has happened, and not focus enough attention on programs that actually work to prevent homelessness,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote to the New Westminster Record.
Another way New Westminster appears to be battling homelessness is by creating an affordable housing project.
The project, which will be developed by The Community Living Society, was recently passed through city hall and will be built north of the Patullo Bridge. The predicted site is currently an un-zoned road allowance, but should be easy to rezone. Three of its six units will house people with developmental disabilities, while the remaining three units will be given to low income families.
While these progressive housing resources are under development, so is New Westminster real estate.
The Real Estate Investment Network released a report that stated, “Revitalization, lifestyle, affordability—all are lining up to attract young families and at the same time, we’re starting to see companies move into the area and bringing those younger jobs.”
New Westminster is seemingly the centre of the Lower Mainland, with easy access to Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, and other municipalities. As plans for a new Patullo Bridge loom on the horizon, it will likely become less congested and thus even more desirable.
“New Westminster seems to be located in the exact right spot and it’s north of the Fraser River, so no bridges [on the commute]. And it’s the 13th most expensive of the 15 areas in Metro Vancouver,” said Don Campbell of the Real Estate Investment Network, to News 1130.
The City of New Westminster has yet to release a response about the report, but if it holds true, it will become clear whether or not the city will continue its trend towards creating housing plans and projects.