People trying to rent apartments at a Langley affordable housing complex say the rents are out of reach of people who actually have low incomes.
“When I got the email from them, I was shocked to see the prices,” said Aaron Fast, who was looking for a unit in the neighbourhood for himself and his son.
Fast is on a fixed income because of medical reasons – he has $950 a month.
That’s less than the rent for the smallest locations at Emmaus Place, a new housing complex created as a partnership between the Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church and Catalyst Community Development Society, with BC Housing also involved. Fast had hoped to live there because his son goes to school a short distance away.
Fast said that when he spoke to someone at Catalyst about the rents, he was told that the province sets the definition of “low income.”
The application to rent at Emmaus Place lists monthly rent starting at $1,000 for a small studio apartment, $1,387.50 for one bedroom, $1,687.50 for two bedrooms, going up to $1,950 for a three bedroom unit.
Minimum income required for the smallest studio apartment is $2,500 a month. For the three-bedroom units, minimum household income is $4,800 a month.
Actual rents are between $200 to $300 higher than the projected rents announced last year.
The original press release, which is still on the BC Housing website, suggested much lower rents.
Rents were to start somewhere between $650 to $900 for studio apartments, $850 to $1,200 for one-bedrooms, $1,450 for two bedrooms, and $1,700 for the three bedroom family units.
One person making B.C.’s minimum wage of $14.60 an hour, working eight hours a day, five days a week, would make about $2,336 per month, below the cutoff for a studio apartment in Emmaus Place.
“This is not low income,” Fast said.
Another would-be tenant, a senior, had hoped that the senior-oriented housing would be a perfect place for her.
“Emmaus Place seemed to offer exactly what I was looking for – a small, affordable space,” said the senior, who asked that her name not be used. “The rent range for studio suites, as originally reported, fit within my limited budget.”
She said that at least she can live with her daughter while she looks for somewhere, but with rent out of reach, she suspects a number of seniors will be looking for roommates.
Catalyst says that the rents reflect increasing costs of operating housing, including insurance.
“That’s been a huge increase for us,” said Luke Harrison, president of Catalyst.
He said the rents could be reduced before the building opens its doors if Catalyst can get property tax abatements or other forms of help from governments.
“Without help, these are reflective of market costs,” said Harrison.
According to BC Housing, the rents are not yet fixed and are to be determined with Catalyst. The rents currently on Catalyst’s website are only “proposed rates,” said Matthew Borghese, senior communications advisor with BC Housing.
Emmaus Place was funded through the Provincial Investment in Housing Innovation Fund, Borghese said in an email to the Langley Advance Times.
“Rents are to be set at below Langley-area market prices and must be affordable for eligible households,” he said. “Housing is considered affordable when 30 per cent or less of your household’s gross income goes towards paying for your housing costs.”
He said there is no minimum salary to qualify for affordable housing, only maximum salaries.
“For residential units with less than two bedrooms, a gross household income that does not exceed the median income for couples without children in B.C., is $74,150 in 2020. For units with two or more bedrooms, that figure is $113,040 for 2020,” Borghese said.
Emmaus Place is in the category of market-based rental accommodations, other types of affordable housing target other groups of renters, including social housing, where the maximum household income is $65,000, and homes for people who are facing homelessness, said Borghese.
As for Fast, he’s still looking for somewhere he can afford.