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City to study co-op models as solution to affordable housing
Burnaby city hall will be attempting to re-invent the wheel in an effort to address the growing problem of a lack of affordable housing.
On Monday, council approved spending $10,000 on a study of affordable, family co-operative housing models as part of its work on a Housing Action Plan and an updated Official Community Plan.
The money will come from amenity bonus funds contributed by developers when the city approves additional density. More specifically, it will come from the 20 per cent of such funds the city sets aside in its Community Benefit Bonus Housing Fund for housing projects, a pot which currently contains $10.7 million, including interest, according to a city staff report.
Burnaby will also apply to BC Housing for a $5,000-grant to split the cost of the study which will go ahead no matter the outcome of the application.
The aim of the study is to "identify co-operative housing models, based on a community land trust approach, to increase the stock of family housing that is affordable to median income households in Burnaby," said the report. It notes that the median household income in the city, according the the 2006 Census, is $50,205.
Coun. Colleen Jordan, chair of the city's community development committee, said city staff are looking at the use of for-profit or "equity" co-ops as a potential form of housing that ordinary citizens could afford to buy into as well as how best the amenity bonus housing fund could be used.
For-profit housing co-ops are not built using government subsidies or land leases, unlike those using the non-profit co-op model which are often located on government-owned land using long-term lease agreements, the report said. In the for-profit model, there may be a need for government subsidies if below-market units are included.
Mayor Derek Corrigan said the city is trying to use the amenity bonus housing fund to help replace some of the affordable housing that's been lost through rezoning for redevelopment.
Housing co-operatives were "incredibly successful" in the 1970s and '80s when senior governments were still involved in producing affordable housing, Corrigan said.
"The concept's a good one. We're trying to find a way to reinvigorate it and use some of this amenity bonus money to leverage opportunities for this kind of development to happen in our community."
Coun. Sav Dhaliwal expressed concern that such a project would be the city's acceptance of provincial and federal government downloading and shirking of its responsibilities for social housing issues.
Corrigan was sympathetic but noted the source of the money is not property taxes but developers.
The growing concern is that young people can't afford to buy into their own community, which will increasingly mean people who work in Burnaby won't live here, creating other issues such as more traffic congestion from commuting workers, he said.
Coun. Paul McDonell said such a study will provide information that would provide opportunities for the city to further discuss the housing issue with senior governments.
"I always say if you're going to build a house, put your money into the foundation," McDonell said. "If you've got a solid base you can always move forward."