EDITORIAL: Housing options needed

Abbotsford is in desperate need of rental housing – as illustrated by last week’s news ...

Abbotsford is in desperate need of rental housing – as illustrated by last week’s news that it has the country’s lowest rental availability rate.

If finding rental accommodation is hard, finding one while struggling with addiction and/or poverty must be near impossible.

Highlighting the issue is a number buried in this week’s Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental housing report for this city.

In the housing stock of Abbotsford and Mission combined, there are just 130 bachelor units. These are the cheapest, most-accessible housing options and they have a listed vacancy rate of 0.0 per cent.

While there are more than 1,000 one-bedroom units in Abbotsford, they are usually more expensive and only barely more available, with a 0.7 per cent vacancy rate.

Something is badly out of sync here.

Government, non-profit agencies and others can try their best, but with virtually no housing accessible, the homelessness problem is unsolvable, and exacerbated.

The city, to its credit, has a housing study in the works to examine the issue. When it does, it should look at rental units coming online over the next year to determine whether they will increase the supply of bachelor and one-bedroom housing options.

If not, it will be worth considering – ideally in tandem with other municipalities – regulations to encourage the creation of new bachelor-style units in new developments.

Restricting the market by capping rents can do more harm than good, since it can have the effect of suppressing development growth. Directing the diversity of new housing construction is not nearly as unpalatable.

And there must be exploration of other incentives that can be offered to encourage builders to add to the meager supply of bachelor-style apartment housing to ease demand that otherwise forces prices out of reach and low-income or unemployed people out on the street.

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