FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Questions have been updated as of October 1, 2021.
Council, as part of its 2019-2022 Strategic Plan, resolved to “aggressively pursue creative approaches to housing policy and on the ground projects to transform the way housing is provided in New Westminster” and to “use partnerships, negotiations with developers and leveraging City resources to secure development of below- and non-market housing, as well as affordable child care.”
There are many definitions related to affordable housing. The City, as part of the request for proposals for the two small sites affordable housing projects, used the terms below- and non-market rental housing and defined them as follows:
Below-market rental units intended to meet rental demand for households earning between $30,000 and $75,000 per year (in 2020).
Non-market rental units intended to meet rental demand for very low-income households with incomes under $30,000 per year (in 2020).
Supportive housing is subsidized housing with on-site, non-clinical supports and common amenity areas. Supports can include counselling and referral to primary health care services, employment readiness and lifeskills training, supervision and care planning, etc. Independent, non-market housing is subsidized housing in which tenants live independently with minimal or no support or supervision.
According to Taxfiler data, 19.1% of residents in Connaught Heights were considered low-income in 2017, which was higher than for New Westminster overall (17.2%). In total, there were 330 residents of Connaught Heights who were considered low-income in 2017, including 40 children and youth (0 to 17 years) and 70 seniors (65+ years).
Across New Westminster there were 10,215 households spending 30% or more of their before-tax household income on housing costs in 2016, or 31.3% of all households. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation considers housing to be affordable if it costs less than 30% of a household’s before-tax household income.
In New Westminster, the number of households on BC Housing’s waitlist increased by 28% between June 2014 and July 2019, from 460 households to 589 households. The need for affordable housing cuts across all demographic groups: in July 2019, there were 215 family households, 207 senior households, 105 person with disabilities households, 47 single person households, and 15 wheelchair accessible needs households on the waitlist.
Affordable housing is a regional and a local issue, and New Westminster is working to contribute to addressing it. In the Connaught Heights neighbourhood alone, there are more low-income residents than could be served by the two proposed affordable housing projects. Tenants, if eligible, will be identified by the operators of the affordable housing projects. While these may include existing residents of Connaught Heights or of New Westminster in general, they may also include residents seeking affordable housing in New Westminster.
One of the most direct ways that Council can deliver affordable housing options in New Westminster is to identify City-owned sites suitable for housing, and invite non-profit housing providers to propose how they would develop them. Such available sites are very limited, and the properties identified in Connaught Heights are some of the only suitable properties in New Westminster.
In August 2019, staff conducted an inventory of all City-owned properties to identify potential sites for small-sites affordable housing projects. A short list of five sites was identified, three of which were on the mainland and two of which were in Queensborough. These were identified by eliminating properties that were physically unsuited, including those that were too small for development; unusably shaped and not appropriate for safe access; without vacancy in the short-term; and within environmentally sensitive areas. The shortlisted sites were reviewed by senior staff in Development Services, Engineering, and Parks and Recreation to identify any foreseeable technical challenges that could complicate affordable housing development on the sites (e.g., geotechnical issues, rights-of-way, servicing requirements, land use, etc.) The five sites and staff’s evaluation were then presented for consideration by Council, which made the final site selection.
All City-owned properties were originally considered, and a short list of five potential locations for small-sites affordable housing projects was identified, by eliminating properties that were physically unsuited. Of the three other physically suited sites not selected, two of the sites were on the mainland of New Westminster – 1823 to 1835 River Drive, and 700 Cumberland Street. One of the sites was in Queensborough – 329 Johnstone Street. Based on the evaluation process, these sites were not recommended for the following reasons:
1823 to 1835 River Drive
The main site challenges were as follows:
- higher expected construction costs, including required storm water extension; a new sidewalk, curb and boulevard; and potential required undergrounding of utilities;
- challenging traffic access from Stewardson Way;
- liveability issues for affordable housing residents related to relative proximity to industrial area;
- difficult site conditions, including an irregularly shaped parcel of land, with dedication/servicing right-of-way required for lane and River Drive; several on-site trees that would need to be replaced and/or retained; and, steep site topography.
700 Cumberland Street
The main site challenges were as follows:
- small site size, comprising only 515 sq. m. (5,546 sq. ft.), which would limit its use for affordable housing purposes; and, adjacent southeast road could be upgraded to a multi-use path, the setback of which would further reduce the already limited buildable area;
- liveability issues for affordable housing residents related to relative proximity to potential location of temporary large recycling area; and,
- expected construction of the New Westminster Aquatic and Community Centre during timeframe of the project, which could create unexpected construction complications.
329 Johnstone Street
The main site challenges were as follows:
- a significant sewer force main runs through a portion of the site, the setback of which would reduce the buildable area; and,
- the parcel has been identified for potential use as part of a future mid-block greenway connection between Derwent Way and Wood Street.
The City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting housing providers to describe how they would develop this site for affordable housing. Seven proposals were received in response.
The evaluation process for the proposals received was intended to take into account affordability, financial viability and sustainability. The evaluation process is also intended to identify the project that best meet objectives stated in the request for proposals (RFP) for each site to:
- demonstrate elements that enhance long term affordability;
- be sympathetic in design with the existing neighbourhoods;
- incorporate units that are suitable for families with children;
- be replicated elsewhere in the city; and,
- be completed by fall 2022.*
The complete list of evaluation criteria is as follows:
- the quality of the proposal in addressing the objectives of the RFP (noted above);
- the ability to meet the timeline and scheduling requirements outlined in the RFP, the readiness of the project to proceed, and the anticipated timeframe to complete the project;
- the proponent’s capacity to undertake the project;
- the level of affordability proposed to be achieved and maintained over time;
- the quality of the plan of work, the community consultation approach, and the suggested responsibility assignments;
- the neighbourhood context and project design, the proponent’s knowledge of and experience in identifying the affordable housing needs of the city, the quality of the design of the project as it relates to the context of the neighbourhood and the community impact;
- the project’s innovation in terms of addressing affordability, energy efficiency and accessibility considerations;
- the proponent’s record of accomplishment, including whether the proponent and/or development team has successfully completed and/or operated a similar type project or a project of similar scope and size;
- the financial feasibility, including preliminary anticipated costs and revenue sources, the proposed capital and operating pro-formas and the construction cost analysis;
- the proponent’s ability to secure construction financing;
- the construction procurement approach;
- the proponent’s property management experience, including the number of units and affordable units managed, the years of experience and the performance record, including the familiarity of the various funding sources for housing development and rental subsidies; and,
- the quality of the proponent’s references, with particular attention to past projects and client contracts.
The City currently has 1,608 units of affordable (non-marked) housing, excluding supportive housing like Mazarine Lodge in Queensborough. Given the small size of New Westminster, the distribution of amenities and services such as affordable (non-market) housing is best understood at the sub-area level. According to this analysis, the west side of the City, which includes Connaught Heights, has the second lowest number of non-market and co-op housing units by sub-area in New Westminster, with 121 such units.
|Sub Area||Number of Independent Non-Market and Co-op Units||Percent of Total|
|Centre of the City||952||59.2%|
|East Side of the City||368||22.9%|
|West Side of the City||121||7.5%|
About 4.5% of the city’s total housing stock is comprised of below- and non-market housing, which ranks the city fifth out of 21 municipalities in Metro Vancouver. The City is aiming to increase our percentage of below- and non-market housing, given the current housing affordability crisis in Metro Vancouver and throughout BC. Such housing meets the needs of low- and moderate-income households, including families of first responders and other needed professionals; and addresses unique situations, including seniors on fixed incomes and persons with disabilities.
The City is taking a number of initiatives to facilitate the development of new affordable housing in New Westminster. Other than the Small Sites Affordable Housing Initiative, one of the most direct ways that the City will increase the number affordable housing units is through its Inclusionary Housing Policy (2019). This policy requires that new multi-unit strata and mixed-use residential developments seeking additional density will have to contribute to the affordable rental housing stock. This means in most cases a developer will either have to provide new affordable housing units in the development or will have to provide a cash-in-lieu contribution to the City’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, enabling the City to pursue other opportunities and partnerships. Projects that will include affordable housing units are now in the planning and approvals process.
There are two components that control the land use of a property: the zoning (controlled by the Zoning Bylaw) and the land use designation (controlled by the Official Community Plan). The Zoning Bylaw is a regulatory tool that includes specific requirements that the buildings/structures constructed on the property must comply with (e.g., permitted density, site coverage, land use, and parking). The Official Community Plan (OCP) is a high-level policy tool that more generally identifies the contemplated uses. The OCP includes land use designations and the Land Use Designation Map, which show the type and location of growth that Council is likely to support.
Changing the land use for the affordable housing project will require an OCP bylaw amendment (to change the land use designation) and a Zoning Bylaw amendment (or rezoning). Typically the proposed changes to these bylaws is examined through the development review process, which includes public consultation. At the end of this process, the decision as to whether or not to approve a change to the OCP or zoning is made by Council. In this case, given the urgent need for affordable housing units, Council has directed that the public engagement process for the project be abbreviated in order to meet senior government funding deadlines.
What are the opportunities for resident engagement related to the redevelopment of this site for affordable housing?
There will be opportunities for the public to provide feedback through the approval process. These opportunities will be advertised in the following ways:
- Be Heart New West project page;
- Postcards sent to owners and occupants living within 100 meters (328 feet) of the site;
- City Page published in the New West Record;
- City Page Online (sign up and receive City Page Online every Thursday in your email inbox); and,
- Email to the Residents Association.
Was the fact that the Connaught Heights properties are designated as future parkland taken into consideration?
Yes, this was taken into consideration in the staff evaluation, and Council was provided for use in their selection of the sites the information that these properties were designated as future parkland in the Official Community Plan (OCP). Given the housing affordability crisis in the city and larger region, Council has directed staff to use these properties for affordable housing purposes and to circulate a call for proposals to non-profit housing providers for creative approaches to addressing affordable housing needs.
The City’s OCP includes policy for providing “well-designed parks and open spaces that accommodate and respond to the needs and demands of the diverse and growing community.” The City is strongly committed to exploring current and future needs for additional parks and open spaces in the Connaught Heights neighbourhood, and the best way to meet those needs, through two upcoming initiatives:
- the 22nd Street Station Area Bold Vision, which will consider the specific needs of the neighbourhood, taking into account the projected future population of the area; and,
- the update to the Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan, which in part, will focus on equitable delivery of parks and open space opportunities across the city and develop strategies for increased and changing demands.
There will be opportunities for community members to provide input into the initiative when it moves forward.
Why was this site identified when it will be difficult for occupants or tenants to meet their daily needs such as shopping for groceries?
The 22nd Street SkyTrain Station is located within 0.54 km walk away, which will be close enough to walk to for many residents. The SkyTrain connects to many areas of Metro Vancouver, including Downtown New Westminster, Edmonds and Metrotown, with a high rate of frequency (i.e., two to three minutes during peak hours). The 22nd Street SkyTrain Station is also a hub for many bus routes, including the 100, 101, 104, 128, 155, 340, 388, 410 and 488, that tie this location into many other locations such as Queensborough, Richmond and South Vancouver.
There are also two bus routes that are located very close to the site. One is the 128 route, which has a stop 0.27 km away at 21st Street and 8th Avenue, and operates every 18 minutes at peak hours, and connects the area with 22nd Street SkyTrain Station, Canada Games Pool, Century House and Uptown New Westminster. The other one is the 116 route, which has an eastward stop 0.28 km away near Griffiths Drive and 10th Avenue and a westward stop 0.53 km away along Southridge Drive, and operates every 10 to 15 minutes during peak hours, and connects with Edmonds Station and the Big Bend office and retail areas.
The site is also conveniently located for families, with Connaught Heights Elementary School located 0.24 km away, as well as two parks (Connaught Heights Park – 0.15 km away and Grimston Park – 0.74 km away) located within walking distance of the properties. There is also a new ice arena being built 0.50 km away in South Burnaby near 18th Street and 10th Avenue that is scheduled to open in fall 2021. The BC Parkway, a popular bike and walkway route, is also located 0.52 km away.
The proposed project is relatively small by development standards, and most of the proposals comprise a variety of bedroom types, including one, two and three bedroom units. As such, they are likely to generate only limited numbers of children aged 0 to 17 years.
Regarding child care, which serves children aged 0 to 12 years, the west side of the city, which includes Connaught Heights, had the highest number of licensed child care spaces (42.3) per 100 children aged 0 to 12 years by sub-area in New Westminster (October 2018). .
What will be the impact of this development on off-street parking and traffic? Will the development be able to meet its off-street parking needs?
Studies indicate that very low-income and low-income households are more likely to use transit than moderate and high-income households. A Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Study by Metro Vancouver, for example, found that over 30% of all work trips in Metro Vancouver by very low- and low-income renter households were by transit, compared with approximately 15% of all work trips by moderate- and high-income owner households. Vehicle ownership among low-income households is lower than for other households: a Department of Transportation Study from the United States in 2009 found that 24% of Americans households at or below the poverty level had no vehicles, while close to 50% had one vehicle. In contrast, 2% of American households earning $100,000 or more had no vehicles and approximately 10% had one vehicle.
What will be the City’s contribution to the affordable housing project? Are local taxpayers subsidizing these projects?
The City is providing the land at no cost for the purposes of realizing affordable housing on the sites in question. If the project is supported by Council, the City would enter into a long term lease (typically the life of the building), to allow the City to retain ownership of the site. The City has submitted for a grant that would cover 100% of the costs related to the construction of the project.
The proposal will have to go through a review process, with Council making the final decision with regard to the approval of the Official Community Plan Amendment and Zoning Amendment Bylaws. Additionally, the project is dependent on receiving senior government funding. If the City and/or it’s partner (Vancouver Native Housing Society) is unable to funding related to capital and/or operating costs, then they may not be in a position to proceed. As such, there is no guarantee that the site will be used for affordable housing purposes.
The most relevant study to examine this question is one from BC Housing, published in January 2020 and entitled “Exploring Impacts of Non-Market Housing on Surrounding Property Values.” This study reviewed 13 case study sites for a variety of non-market housing developments in British Columbia and their impact on median assessed residential property values for properties within 200 metres of the developments. This study compared the changes in property values during the five post-construction years with the changes during these years to property values in their municipality-as-a-whole. This study found the following results:
- four study sites: nearby area residential property values increased faster than for the municipality-as-a-whole;
- six study sites: nearby area residential property values increased at the same rate as for the municipality-as-a-whole; and,
- three study sites: nearby area residential property values did not increase as quickly as the municipality-as-a-whole.
Based on analysis of these sites and other factors during this study, it was concluded that the main factors affecting residential real estate property values were global and local economic factors, not the introduction of non-market housing to the area.