UNDERSTANDING THE HOUSING CRISIS
Get The Facts
The Sunshine Coast is experiencing a serious housing crisis that is impacting all members of our community. Seniors, young families, young adults in the workforce – all demographics are being affected. Many residents are being pushed off the Coast and young people are unable to return because they cannot find affordable housing. An unprecedented number of people, many of whom have lived here a long time, are also finding themselves homeless.
The information provided on this page is based on research conducted by a number of organizations. Our objective is to nurture a common understanding of challenges and initiatives that will help to inform discussion, and to explore collaborative solutions that will benefit our community as a whole.
Explore & Learn
Explore & Learn
1. AFFORDABLE HOUSING
2. WHO IS IMPACTED?
4. PROPERTY VALUES
6. HOUSING FIRST
7. POVERTY ON THE COAST
8. RESEARCH SOURCES
According to Statistics Canada and based on the median multiple indicator (a formula recommended by the World Bank and the United Nations in calculating housing affordability), to be considered affordable, homeowners and renters in Canada should not be spending more than 30% of their income (before taxes) on housing costs.
Many people think the term “affordable housing” refers only to rental housing that is subsidized by the government. In reality, it’s a very broad term that can include housing provided by the private, public and non-profit sectors. It also includes all forms of housing tenure: rental, ownership and co-operative ownership, as well as temporary and permanent housing.
To be considered affordable, homeowners and renters in Canada should not be spending more than 30% of their income (before taxes) on housing costs.
As both the price of land and construction costs have skyrocketed in recent years, the key to housing affordability is density: efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable design that maximizes the land it is constructed on for a low carbon footprint in centrally located areas.
This is a challenge over the 180-km stretch of small communities on the Sunshine Coast. The 2020 Sunshine Coast Housing Needs Report reported “a limited supply of smaller, affordable units such as apartments or townhouses.” According to the 2016 Census, 88-96% of housing in SCRD electoral areas, 75% in Sechelt and 55% in Gibsons are single detached homes. So the vast majority of our population of almost 30,000 is housed in over 10,000 single-family homes. Furthermore, 66-87% of our households (depending on the community) have only 1-2 people living in them, while 1 BR/studio dwellings built to fit 1-2 people make up only 9-14% of our housing stock.
Diversity in housing options is recognized as a key to building healthy communities. Promoting more options does not mean abandoning or shaming the single-family homes that most of us live in. It does mean, however, that if we want to ensure affordable living now and into the future, we need to balance off these single-family homes with more duplexes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments—not up and down the Coast, but in appropriate areas. From young single adults who can’t afford a $900,000 house, to young families looking to settle here, to seniors and empty nesters hoping to downsize from their single-family dwellings, the need and demand for more housing options on the Sunshine Coast is high. It is also true that demand for even more single-family homes is probably even higher, but in 2021 these homes are largely unaffordable to build or to purchase. And we already have many of them. As a community, we need to broaden our vision of “homes” for everybody beyond the single family house on a half-acre of land.
The City of Kelowna developed a model called the Housing Wheelhouse, which recognizes that “a healthy housing stock includes many diverse forms and tenures of housing to meet the diverse needs of residents.” This graphic illustrates that movement along the housing spectrum is not linear, but instead members of a community may move around the wheelhouse for various reasons throughout their lives.
Who is impacted?
There is a common misconception about who is being impacted by the housing crisis. In truth, people facing housing insecurity represent all demographics:
- Professionals earning median and above median incomes
- Young families
- Single parent families
- People living with addiction or mental illness
- Women fleeing violence
- Recent immigrants
- People living with disabilities
- People experiencing systemic discrimination
Lack of access to housing results in the hollowing out of communities:
- Local businesses such as restaurants, house cleaners, and retail shops have a hard time hiring and retaining qualified staff and have to reduce hours or close down.
- Key service providers such as hospitals, police, schools, seniors’ care and social services are short-staffed and unable to keep up with demand.
- Neighbourhoods are more homogeneous, less diverse and less family-oriented
All municipalities and electoral areas on the Sunshine Coast have Official Community Plans (OCP), that help to navigate future land use and its potential impact on infrastructure. These plans take into consideration existing infrastructure capacity and measure it against future growth. Social and subsidized housing projects are limited to existing residents, so are not necessarily driving growth. All new housing developments must pay development cost charges (DCCs) in order to support infrastructure. Local governments calculate DCCs to pay for any additional infrastructure costs that are needed to support development. In response to continued growth on the Sunshine Coast, local governments are working together to ensure that the infrastructure will support development, including through a Regional Growth Strategy.
What is an OCP?
An Official Community Plan describes the long-term vision of the community. The plan guides the decisions of elected officials and local government staff. OCPs are developed in consultation with community stakeholders.
In response to continued growth on the Sunshine Coast, local governments are working together to ensure that the infrastructure will support development.
In some recent years, the Sunshine Coast has experienced unforeseen drought conditions causing water shortages for private households, local businesses and professional farms in the late summer. In all cases. the SCRD’s Drought Response Plan to restrict the use of water during the summer months has been successful, but inconvenient and undesirable for water users. Some question how any more housing can be built when “there is not enough water.”
The SCRD has developed an Integrated Approach to Water that includes capital projects to increase supply, the completion of its water metering program to enhance conservation, and the identification and correction of leaks in the current system. Meanwhile, annual population growth for the Sunshine Coast at the last census was 1.1%.
The Sunshine Coast does have “enough water” for current population growth and normal climate conditions. 2021 has an above-average snowpack that will release more water through the Chapman Creek system this summer. But due to recent indications that late-summer droughts could still become the “new norm” due to climate change, the Church Road Well is being added to increase supply in 2022; the completion of the Coast-wide metering system in 2023 will significantly address conservation and leak detection; and other groundwater sources are continuously being explored to be added soon afterwards.
New development is usually slow and incremental. Many housing projects approved years ago within our OCPs have not yet started. If local governments were to amend their OCPs to stop or limit future development, this would still have no noticeable impact on short term water supply this year or next. Therefore, the SCRD’s Integrated Approach to Water prioritizes the connection of new sources, conservation (including metering) and operational improvements as far more effective, impactful and practical ways to ensure sustainable water supply for the Sunshine Coast in the short, medium and long terms.
Understandably, homeowners want to protect the value of their property (often one of their biggest investments) and are concerned about the negative impact of supportive or other affordable housing developments in their neighbourhood.
Because of this, there have been over 100 studies in the past 40 years to evaluate property values surrounding these types of developments.
The results of these studies provide overwhelming evidence that affordable or supportive housing does not lower surrounding property values. In fact, studies have shown (from such major studies as NYU’s 2008 research on 123 supportive housing developments) that the values of property close to supportive housing can go up faster than others in the neighbourhood.
These studies assessed the impact of every type of affordable and supportive housing: large and small, new and renovated, for families and singles, people with mental illness or addictions, youth, and seniors. They reviewed the impacts on property values and saleability, often over many years, and compared them with similar properties with no affordable or supportive housing nearby.
Case Study by BC Housing
In January 2020, BC Housing released a study of 13 BC Housing-funded sites from across the province, with the projects addressing a variety of housing needs in those communities. Almost 85% of the sites experienced increases in the assessed values in the immediate area.
For the majority of the case study sites, median assessed values for the most common residential form in the areas surrounding the case study sites were consistent with or grew more than trends for the surrounding municipality. This suggests non-market housing does not have an impact on surrounding residential property values.
Another common misconception is that supportive housing will result in an increase in crime in the surrounding neighbourhood. In fact, a range of studies show that supportive housing does not directly impact crime rates.
In 2014, BC Housing conducted a research study that monitored five supportive housing projects for homeless people or people at risk of homelessness. Combined quantitative data provided by the local police departments for all five case study sites show a pattern of decreasing calls to police from the neighbourhoods surrounding the sites following supportive housing project openings.
Over time, initial concerns from some community members developed into positive relationships. In all five case studies, neighbours stopped expressing concerns after a few months of the supportive housing sites becoming operational.
Now all case study sites enjoy positive relationships with neighbours who show support by dropping off donations, volunteering and attending events at the sites, making supportive housing residents welcome in their businesses, and in one case, advocating for additional supportive housing.
Supportive housing also has a huge positive impact on the residents of these facilities. Evidence from several B.C. studies, as well as research from other jurisdictions, report that the majority of residents who reside in housing projects have positive outcomes in terms of housing stability, movement along the housing spectrum, health outcomes, income outcomes, and personal outcomes.
“Housing First” is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centres on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed. The underlying principle of Housing First is that people are more successful in moving forward with their lives if they are first housed. This is as true for homeless people and those with mental health and addiction issues as it is for anyone.
Considerable research in Canada, the United States and other countries attests to the effectiveness of this model in providing permanent housing and supports to individuals and families who might otherwise be deemed as ‘hard to house’, including the chronically homeless and those with complex mental health and addictions challenges.
Housing First is a philosophy that values flexibility, individualized supports, client choice, and autonomy. It is not just about housing. Supportive services are part of the Housing First model. These might include formal support services, like a doctor, therapist, or social worker. They might also involve informal supports, like connecting with family, friends, or faith groups.
Poverty on the Coast
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Project recently gathered information about poverty on the Sunshine Coast. They outlined the following contributors to poverty:
1. Unaffordable Housing
2. Unaffordable Rental Units
The Canadian Rental Housing Index rates the Sunshine Coast as Extremely Unaffordable. In 2016 …
40% or more of all renter households were living in unaffordable housing.
29% of renters spend more than half their income on housing costs - “a crisis level of spending.” Sechelt ranked third in Canada for residents spending that much on rent (2018).
3. Rental Housing Shortages
The demand for rental housing is much higher than current supply:
- There are long waiting lists for apartment rentals.
- Legal and illegal evictions are skyrocketing.
- Developing affordable housing is challenging due to the need for land, funding, zoning, & public support.
4. Food Insecurity
- High housing costs = less $$ for food
- Limited food options for those needing help
5. Inadequate Income Supports
- Single adults under 65 years receive $935 /month
6. Limited Public Transportation
- Less access to work, education, health care
- Adds to isolation, social exclusion
7. Lack of Childcare
- More than 80% of families cannot find the childcare they need in licensed daycares. (SC Child Care Action Plan 2019)
- Parents who could be working to support their families are not able to, and are more at risk of poverty.
- Businesses and services cannot find staff to hire.
- Fewer young families can live here.
BC Non-Profit Housing Association
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
City of Kelowna
City of Vancouver
District of Sechelt
Habitat for Humanity
Twin Cities – 7 Myths about Affordable Housing:
Sunshine Coast Regional District
Water Services Division:
Drought Response Plan:
Town of Gibsons
Sunshine Coast Housing Needs Assessment Report, 2019:
Yes in My Back Yard
Supportive and Transitional Housing:
Furman Centre – Impact of Supportive Housing:
Affordable Housing + Median Multiple Indicator: