Vancouver councillor Pete Fry and many others have long had issues with city hall’s definition of social housing.
Social housing used to mean affordable housing for people who are not wealthy.
In 2014, the then Vision Vancouver-dominated council changed the definition of the term.
It now means entire housing developments where most of the units are rented out at market rates.
It doesn’t matter that rich people can afford to live in these supposed social housing projects.
Fry of the Green Party of Vancouver and councillor Jean Swanson of the Coalition of Progressive Electors have described this definition as misleading.
Swanson has said that doing away with the traditional definition of social housing is Orwellian.
Fry now has brought forward a motion to council with the aim of defining social housing “consistently and transparently”.
Fry’s motion is in the agenda of council on Tuesday (June 2).
“The English language and urban studies variously define Social Housing as any rental housing that may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of providing affordable housing,” Fry noted in his motion.
According to Fry, social housing is “generally rationed by some form of means testing or administrative measures of housing need”.
For Census data purposes, the Green councillor also pointed out, Statistics Canada defines social housing as “non-market rental housing”.
Fry likewise noted that the provincial government, through B.C. Housing, defines social housing as developments where it is “possible for people with lower incomes to find housing they can afford”.
“Household income must be below certain limits in order to be eligible,” the councillor continued.
Moreover, an agreement between the federal and provincial government provides a definition of social housing that mostly geared toward low-income people.
By contrast, the City of Vancouver defines social housing as an entire development where 70 percent of the units are for market-rate renters.
For city hall, it is enough that 30 percent of the units are for residents whose incomes fall below the required level to afford market rents.
Fry sums up what this all means.
“The City of Vancouver definition of Social Housing is inconsistent with the standard definitions employed by the Province, Government of Canada Agencies and the English-speaking world,” Fry stated in his motion.
“When attempting to understand housing targets or determining the merits or public benefits of a rezoning or development application, Vancouverites may be confused or misled by the term Social Housing as defined by the City of Vancouver and applied to the entire project, not just the percent or portion of non-market affordable rental or co-op housing,” Fry added.