The term “housing continuum” refers to the range of shelter and housing options, from emergency shelters and transitional housing, to supportive housing for vulnerable populations including seniors and people with mental illness, to public and non-profit affordable rental housing, to market rental, to home ownership. Ideally, there should be options available for those who need them all along the housing continuum.
Even though there is an estimated shortage of 35,000 rental units in Metro Vancouver (increasing by 3,500 per year), developers do not build affordable rental housing for low income earners, because the return on investment is simply not there. Development of homes at the low-income end of the housing continuum is dependent on financial contributions from federal, provincial and/or municipal governments.
In 1993 the federal government withdrew funding for new social housing in Canada. This has resulted in a crisis in social housing. The social housing stock in the province is overburdened. There are 13,000 names on the BC Housing applicant list. Skyrocketing real estate values and a low rental vacancy rate of 0.5% in Metro Vancouver have combined to make our city one of the least affordable in Canada.
The dearth of affordable rental housing in Vancouver means that once someone secures a subsidized home they stay put. A healthy housing continuum could facilitate those in social housing to move on and up once they get established. To create movement through the housing continuum, Vancouver needs more affordable housing, for both rental and purchase.
Some key facts about the urban Aboriginal population in Vancouver:
While representing only two percent of the population of Vancouver, urban Aboriginals account for 30% of the homeless population.
Urban Aboriginal people are over-represented in every vulnerability measurement.
For urban Aboriginal children, 80% live in poverty. They are 8 times more likely to end up in jail and they are 6 times more likely to commit suicide.
Aboriginals are the fastest growing demographic in the country, and over half of this population is under the age of 25.
A CMHC report put 42.3% of urban Aboriginal renters in Vancouver in core housing need.
VNHS itself has over 1,365 names on its waiting list and the minimum wait is five years.
The homeownership rate among Aboriginals is 32.6%, half that of Vancouverites overall.
The problem is that once a person/family secures a subsidized unit they do not usually move because there are so few affordable options. Combine all of these factors and you have a crisis spiraling out of control.
One solution that will help reduce the strain on the social housing stock is the development of affordable homeownership programming for Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal population. This is one of the many social enterprise solutions that the Society is developing to get things moving along the continuum.