Maple Ridge renters paying half their income

Council looking at concrete steps to increase housing supply

You’re paying a pretty price for the privilege of renting in Maple Ridge. And when you add up the costs of rent and transportation, it’s a pricier than even in Vancouver.

According to a Metro Vancouver report, which combines housing and transportation costs when weighing affordability, renters pay 54 per cent of their income in Maple Ridge.

In Vancouver, where transportation costs are lower, renters pay only 45 per cent of their income for housing and transportation.

The two details are from a staff report packed with information that will be used as background for Maple Ridge’s housing plan.

In Pitt Meadows, renters pay 48 per cent of their income for housing and transportation, while those who own their own homes pay only 40 per cent.

Coun. Kiersten Duncan can personally vouch for the details in the report.

“As someone who’s rented recently, it’s difficult to find good, affordable units that are clean, well maintained, in safer areas, near transit, that are not horribly expensive.

“So I would agree with the data in the report as someone who’s rented recently in Maple Ridge.”

The report points out that renters pay proportionately more for housing and transportation than those who have mortgages, largely because the latter earn more.

And it says that the vacancy rate in Maple Ridge in the last two years has dropped from more than four per cent to 2.6 per cent.

However, monthly rental rates for a two-bedroom apartment have dropped by $31, although one-bedroom rental rates haven’t changed.

In Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, people pay an average of $708 to rent a one-bedroom suite in an older apartment block that was purpose built as an apartment building.

But if you’re renting a one bedroom investor-owned condo, you’re paying $1,200 a month.

Council OK’d what it called a housing framework Monday, part of the housing action plan, which lists several ways of adding to the housing supply.

One tactic could be to make zoning changes to allow tri-plex or four-plex complexes in parts of Maple Ridge.

Another goal to be tried in the short term is working with Fraser Health or B.C. Housing to increase the supply of seniors or supportive housing, such as at Alouette Heights.

Also up for consideration this fall is using density bonusing – allowing builders to put in more units than zoning allows – in return for also building rental units or seniors housing.

Another new approach would be to create an incentive plan, through tax exemptions or parking relaxation, to encourage actual construction of rental, apartment blocks.

Coun. Gordy Robson pointed out council hasn’t approved any one measure and will look at each one individually.

Robson also said his priority is more supportive housing, with 24-hour supervision, to help people who are trying to recover from addiction or mental illness.

But he wants to use the market to create affordable housing by providing rental supplements to low-income people, “rather than trying to build a ghetto.”

However, one stumbling block against building rental units is lack of rapid transit in Maple Ridge to allow people renting here to get to work farther west. Maple Ridge needs a rapid bus connection to Coquitlam, as was included in the plan recently defeated in the transit referendum.

“Until that happens, our downtown is never going to get the strength it really needs.”

Robson also doesn’t favour allowing tri-plexes or four-plex buildings that are not owner occupied.

“But we’ll see.”

Maple Ridge has been working forever on its housing action plan, he added.

He also challenged the figure that says rentals are higher for investor-owned condos.

The report says that while investor-owned condos have higher rents, one-bedroom suites in single family homes are closer to rents charged for purpose-built apartment blocks.

Duncan said staff have done a thorough job putting together the information and it passed on to council before Monday’s meeting so council could digest the data.

• When it comes to emergency shelter space in Maple Ridge, there are only 25 beds for men and women while there are 12 safe house beds for women. There are only four emergency beds for children after the closure of the Iron Horse Youth Safe House.

• There are also only 88 transitional or supportive housing beds for homeless people and 79 beds for special needs people.

 

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