The District of Mission is behind schedule on the community’s housing needs, councillors heard at a special council meeting on Monday, Jan. 25.
Mike Dickinson, the manager of long-range planning and special projects, provided an update on how the pace of of Mission’s affordable-housing development compares with the 2020 to 2024 Housing Needs Assessment.
“Mission is currently in a critical state with the housing situation,” Dickinson said. “Factors leading to the crunch are the limited supply of housing options or vacancy rates, limited supply of below-market rentals and the rise in rental prices.”
The housing needs in the district’s assessment sets a target for the development of 2,060 new units – 750 of which are meant to be affordable – by the end of 2024. By the closes of 2020: Only 24 were built out of 195 rental units needed at market price; out of 150 affordable units needed, zero were built; out of 149 ownership units, 17 were built.
Coun. Daniel Plecas acknowledged they have to “play catchup” to reach their 750 goal, and asked about the possibility of fast-tracking development applications.
“That’s the concern, and we can’t hurry up developers to build projects,” he said. “We’re behind now. People I know are looking for rentals right now that (cost) astronomical amounts.”
But Dickinson said there has been a substantial increase in the number of development applications for affordable units. This was spurred on by the density-bonusing program and downtown-incentive program, as well as provincial and federal housing grants.
Seven major development applications currently before council could add 192 affordable rental units, 356 market units and 289 strata units to the housing pool.
Dickinson cautioned against creating too many inducements for developers without asking for the proper funds correlating to growing demands on community services.
Coun. Cal Crawford said room must be left for developers to profit.
“They just simply will not show up in our community … (It’s) something that we have to really concentrate on.”
The report states that Mission needs to be developing more every year to keep its “head above water,” build a wider variety of housing stock (fewer single-family residences) and address the proliferation of unauthorized suites.
While more work is needed, the district has made gains in shelters for vulnerable populations. It’s on track for creating 215 spaces for women and children fleeing violence, and nearly 50 per cent towards its goal creating 170 spaces for people experiencing homelessness.
Between 2018 and 2019, the Haven In The Hollow shelter had 1,881 people visit, according to the report. Staff had to turn away 319 men and 83 women during extreme-weather events in the winter of 2019, with Mission Community Services initiating emergency warming centres.
Dickinson said the work to date has provided a solid basis for preparing more affordable housing, and they are in the beginning stages of formulating an official strategy with a consultant firm.