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Housing, homelessness and poverty are top concerns in B.C. municipal election: survey

Survey shows housing, homelessness and poverty as top voter concern for civic fall election
House model on wood table overlooking neighbourhood (Pixabay photo).

As the fall municipal election inches closer, a new survey is giving insight into what issues are most important to British Columbians.

A Research Co. survey released this week found that 39 per cent of British Columbians rank housing, homelessness and poverty as their number-one concern for fall election — more than double the next leading issue.

These issues transcend all demographics, ages and genders, according to the survey. These findings are grounded in the increasingly severe lack of housing affordability in B.C., where approximately 23,000 people experienced homelessness in 2019 and 20 per cent of renters spend over half of their income on housing and utilities.

Results are based on an online study conducted from June 12-14 among 2,000 adults in B.C.

A lot of blame for the current housing crisis is often laid on provincial and federal governments but local governments are not bystanders, said Thom Armstrong, CEO for the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC.

“They have an essential role to play in addressing the housing crisis by shaping local land use and driving the zoning decisions that can tangibly affect housing starts.”

Municipalities shape the future of communities and the type of housing options that will be available decades into the future, said Jill Atkey, CEO of BC Non-Profit Housing Association.

“While the challenges are clear, there are also solutions. British Columbia’s non-profit housing sector has the solutions and expertise to be an essential partner for local governments to help solve the housing crisis.”

Another important aspect is the role Indigenous housing plays in strengthening communities, supporting individuals and families while creating a sense of belonging and well-being, said Margaret Pfoh, CEO of Aboriginal Housing Management Association.

“Advancing reconciliation requires all communities to ensure that decision-making on housing considers the needs of Indigenous people and the reality that adequate housing is a basic human right. In these challenging times, municipal leaders must think about the long-term.”

Key findings of the survey state 73 per cent of British Columbians support streamlining municipal permitting and rezoning processes to fast-track development of rental housing, with a specific focus on affordable rental housing. Seventy-seven per cent support contributing public land to non-profit and co-op housing developments for new affordable homes and 68 per cent support including affordable housing targets to meet the unique needs of Indigenous people in housing needs reports.

“This as an issue should send a clear message to all incumbents and candidates seeking municipal office this fall that they need to bring a real commitment and real ideas to the table,” said Mario Canseco of Research Co. “The need is great, and the research shows that voters will be prioritizing candidates that will commit to taking concrete action to address local housing needs.”

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