COLUMN: Housing affordability top concern for Delta seniors

Columnist ML Burke talks about the results of the Delta Seniors Planning Team's recently completed housing survey.

The Delta Seniors Planning Team (DSPT) recently completed a 55 and over Housing Survey for the Corporation of Delta. Close to 500 folks responded to questions on affordable, appropriate and available housing now and in their future.

Delta’s three communities told us affordability was their top concern. A report from the Corporation’s planning department noted that housing affordability, especially in the rental market, was a challenge due to high land prices and developers not being particularly interested in building rental or seniors housing.

Wait a minute! Why not?

So I asked a couple of developers about this. The response I got could fill five columns, but it was mostly about the onerous bureaucracy of municipalities’ planning departments, boards of variance and time barriers to the permitting process.

Land development is a business, which requires profit. Developers are not social workers, although some are partnering with non-profits on providing subsidized housing.

Housing or shelter is a basic need. Everyone deserves basic shelter, no matter how humble that might be. A car is not too small when you are homeless.

All three levels of government need to work together on a strategy. Government is not a business and should be doing what’s best for the people, putting them before profit and spending our tax dollars where there is the most need.

Gaining approval for change is a hard sell and too often renders governments impotent. This is where the rest of us come in.

We are our own worst enemy and continue to belly ache about increased density, more traffic, pollution, parking and so on.

You may not want to hear this, but increased density is our only option if we want to keep living here. Otherwise, Metro Vancouver will just be a playground for the ultra-wealthy. Look at New York, London, Paris, Toronto, San Francisco.

Vancouver has arrived, and we’ve thrown in a mild year-around climate as a bonus. Vancouver has been outed and the world is coming.

Sorry for my rant, but we really do need to change our thinking.

But back to the survey results. Fourty-three per cent of Deltans 55 and over said the housing they need is not available. The greatest need is in South Delta for owned and/or rented one-bedroom apartments, as well as affordable rental rates. The top three future housing choices are a condo/apartment, a one-story home or a gated 55-and-over community.

The most important amenities are health services, walkability and proximity to shops and transit. Two-thirds of seniors are concerned about their finances lasting.

Two of the DSPT’s six recommendations are:

Plan new developments with the “village” concept in mind. Housing that is affordable for all demographics, that encourages socializing, walkability, cycling, shops, access to transit and community events. (Anyone remember the Paterson Park Vision?)

Encourage innovative land use by considering exceptions or amendments to zoning and bylaws that are barriers to creating affordable housing such as modular homes, lane housing, co-ops and co-housing.

If you would like a PDF copy of the full DSPT housing report, contact ml_burke@telus.net.

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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