As housing matters to all of us, the time has come to look to forward, to direct our investments to meet the coming housing needs of British Columbians.
That's why last year the B.C. government updated our housing strategy, Housing Matters BC, to better serve our future needs. We refocused our strategy to enhance affordability, increase confidence for renters, homeowners and landlords and promote safe, healthy communities.
We face different challenges today than we did when we first launched the strategy seven years ago. Demand for affordable housing is increasing and availability of rental units is decreasing.
As part of our strategy, we will establish improved licensing requirements for home inspectors this year that will create a common professional standard for home inspectors. Improved standards will help to make sure homebuyers have confidence that their home inspectors are qualified to help them make one of the largest investments of their lives.
We are also creating more flexible options for rental assistance so more as people can choose where they want to live and there are no waitlists. For instance, we've increased the average monthly rental supplements for those in need. On average, families receiving rental assistance now receive an extra $40 per month and seniors now receive an extra $34 per month.
Rental assistance is so effective we created the new Homeless Prevention Program to provide people at-risk of homelessness with rent supplements to help them stay in the private market. Together with the federal government we are investing $62.5 million over the next five years to support up to 4,000 people.
By providing assistance to people at-risk - women fleeing violence, youth leaving care, seniors leaving the hospital - we can help prevent them from ending up on the street. The first year of the Homeless Prevention Program has resulted in these services being based in nearly 30 communities throughout the province.
We know we can't do this alone, so we have committed to developing partnerships that create more choices and increase affordable housing options for all British Columbians.
For example, we are strengthening the non-profit housing sector by transferring provincially owned land to non-profit housing providers. We are offering 350 non-profit housing providers who own and operate social housing buildings the option to buy the land on which they operate. Owning the land will make it easier for non-profits to secure loans, raise funds and give them the security to plan for the future.
Most importantly, the updated provincial housing strategy reaffirmed our commitment to supporting those in greatest need.
This year, our B.C. government will provide approximately $169 million to support people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In more than 60 communities throughout B.C. our homeless outreach teams work to connect homeless people with stable housing and support services. Last year, we found stable housing for more than 6,700 homeless people.
Today there are more than 11,000 emergency shelter spaces throughout B.C. As the weather gets colder, we are working with our partners to provide an additional 1,100 shelter spaces so that no one must face a night in the cold. Plus, we've developed a new online map.
This map shows the location of shelters in each community to help social service providers more easily connect British Columbians with a safe place to stay.
Through our provincial housing strategy we are producing impressive results. Each year, we help about 100,000 B.C. households with a range of housing services.
By updating our strategy we are providing support to those in greatest need to keep housing safe and affordable, and to strengthen the social housing sector, because in British Columbia housing matters.