Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag moderated Wednesday afternoon’s town hall on affordable senior housing. Seated at the table, from left: Andrew Middleton, Mike Clay, Naomi Brunemeyer and Isobel McKenzie. (Samantha Anderson)

Seniors housing town hall offers funding resources to developers

Provincial, federal funds to create units for seniors; no details on Cloverdale or Langley projects

Dozens of Surrey and Langley residents attended a town hall on affordable senior housing Wednesday afternoon to learn how billions of dollars in federaland provincial funding may impact them at the local level.

Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag moderated the panel of affordable housing experts and seniors advocates in a three-hour presentation at Hope Community Church in Clayton Heights. The panel consisted of BC Seniors Advocate Isobel McKenzie; Andrew Middleton, a consultant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; Naomi Brunemeyer, BC Housing’s director of regional development for the Lower Mainland; and Mike Clay, mayor of Port Moody and chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District housing committee.

The afternoon was geared towards non-profit groups, co-ops, faith-based housing and service providers, realtors, financiers and developers who may be interested in creating affordable housing for seniors within Cloverdale and Langley.

Billions of dollars have been earmarked for affordable housing projects within Canada through the National Housing Strategy announced last November, plus $1.6 billion announced in the 2018 provincial budget on Tuesday.

The question of how to access those funds, and how those funds will affect affordable housing for seniors within Cloverdale and Langley, was the focus of the discussions.

BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie led off the afternoon by explaining the challenges that today’s seniors face in the province’s housing and rental market.

“The vast, vast, vast majority of seniors are going to live in their own homes for the rest of their lives,” said Mackenzie, noting that as many as 80 per cent of seniors above the age of 65 own their homes.

But, she said, those senior homeowners still face significant financial challenges. Although home values in the Lower Mainland range, on average, from $300,000 to more than $1,000,000, it can be difficult to access that home value. At least 30 per cent of senior homeowners are low-income, and major home repairs, medication costs or other unexpected financial challenges can force them to sell their home.

Mackenzie recommended that existing programs, such as the property tax deferment program and the home renovation tax credit, be better advertised, and that a new program that would allow homeowners to defer home expenses be created.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie said, the challenges that senior renters face are even more staggering; they must find and secure an available, appropriate and affordable residence in a province where there are long waitlists, shortages of appropriate seniors’ housing in both urban and rural areas, and sky-high rental costs.

To help, Mackenzie recommended that BC Housing’s Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) be increased, that awareness of existing subsidies for seniors be promoted and that more appropriate housing for seniors to be constructed within B.C., particularly in rural areas.

Following Mackenzie’s remarks, the three remaining panelists detailed future affordable housing projects and explained how developers can apply for funding at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.

For instance, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation will provide “seed funding” to help cover soft costs incurred during the proposal and development stage of an affordable housing project, and BC Housing provides funding opportunities to assist with the development or renovation of affordable housing projects.

BC Housing’s Brunemeyer noted that her organization follows a “community-based model” and that one solution would never fit the entire province. “What works in Langley might not work in Surrey,” she said.

None of the housing projects mentioned in Wednesday’s presentation were within Cloverdale. Although it was emphasized that funds are available for affordable housing development projects at all levels of government, and that there will be units created within Canada and B.C., no new details were givenaboutany projects that would impact Surrey or Langley residents.

Presenters did point to existing projects, such as Langley’s Shepherd of the Valley Church seniors’ housing development and the planned Veteran’s Village in Whalley, as good examples of what funding can support in the Surrey and Langley community. They encouraged community members or developers with affordable housing ideas to contact their organizations for more information.

The National Housing Strategy promises to create at least 12,000 affordable units for seniors in Canada over the next ten years. The 2018 provincial budget, which gave $1.35 billion to BC Housing to fund new housing initiatives over the next three years, includes $922 million to create 28,700 affordable units. Brunemeyer said that more than 14,000 of those new units would be set aside for families and seniors.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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