Waitlist for affordable housing has doubled in last 5 years

Between Langley and Hope, there are now more than 1,000 people on BC Housing’s registry for subsidized housing

By Tyler Olsen | June 22, 2021 |11:16 pm

As the cost of housing has ballooned in the Fraser Valley, so too has the waitlist for affordable housing.

Between Langley and Hope, there are now more than 1,000 people on BC Housing’s registry for subsidized housing, according to figures obtained by The Current. Families and seniors make up about 3/4 of a waitlist that has more than doubled in size over the past 5 years. The number of seniors on the registry has risen particularly fast, increasing 253%.

The housing registry is a database of people who have been deemed eligible for subsidized housing based on their income, needs, and household size. It’s a list that attempts to make it easy for housing providers—including both the province and registered non-profits—to find, evaluate, and select people in their area who qualify for subsidized homes. But the registry also provides a look at the deepening housing crisis and the dramatically increasing numbers of people who say they need help to afford suitable homes for their families and themselves.

The figures show how financial support for those struggling to afford housing is only one part of the equation; even as the supply of affordable housing options has grown, the demand for such homes is increasing at an even faster rate, leaving hundreds who qualify for subsidized homes waiting—often in substandard housing. (It’s unclear how long people end up stuck on the waitlist: homes are not allocated on a first-come first-serve basis, so average wait times are not recorded.)

In 2016, there were just shy of 400 people in the Fraser Valley on the housing registry. Five years later, the waitlist has doubled in length. There are nearly 400 people in Abbotsford alone on the registry, and Langley has a similar number of registrants. People in smaller communities are also finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable shelter. In Hope, where there were no more than 5 people on the registry in 2016, there are now 19 who qualify for homes and are waiting.

Housing waitlist
Housing waitlist in BC

Organizations and municipalities from around the region have reported the housing crunch is particularly dire for families and seniors who can no longer afford suitable homes in the region, The Current reported earlier this month.

“We are forcing our elderly, low-income families, young families starting out, young singles, and low-income singles to choose between eating nutritious meals or having a place to sleep that isn’t on the street,” officials in Mission wrote.

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The waitlist statistics do suggest there may have been some progress made on housing some of the most vulnerable. In 2019, 490 people were registered for supportive housing assistance—those forms of housing with support programs that are often targeted at people who have addictions and/or are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. That figure has declined to 267 this spring. The province has also recently bought the Travelodge in Chilliwack and the Canada’s Best Value Inn in Langley to provide more supportive housing.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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