Apr 02, 2019 Return to Headlines

Policy Changes Promote More Housing for Those in Need in Coquitlam

by Michelle Frilund |

COQUITLAM, BC, April 2, 2019 – Changes this week to Coquitlam’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund criteria will make it easier to develop housing for low-to-moderate income households in the community.

Council approved a series of policy changes intended to improve the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund (AHRF) – a component of the Housing Affordability Strategy (HAS) that was introduced in 2015 to broaden the variety of housing types, sizes, prices and tenures in the City. 

Recognizing that the City does not own or operate any housing, Coquitlam's goal is to work with partners from the non-profit, private and public sectors to foster projects that ensure a wide variety of housing can be offered in Coquitlam in the years to come.

While the strategy’s overall incentives have led to nearly 4,000 new market and below-market rental units being planned or constructed, only about 120 non-market (subsidized) units for low-to-moderate income households have received AHRF funding approval to date. 

Changes to Provide Clarity to Funding Criteria
As part of the evaluation of the effectiveness of the HAS, it became apparent that the original AHRF criteria presented staff and partners with very wide parameters – sometimes making it difficult to negotiate an agreement and provide certainty for these type of housing projects.

This week’s policy changes, based on a comprehensive review and feedback from housing providers, will clarify the funding criteria and streamline the application process. The changes include:

  • Clarification to existing criteria, including requirements for funding from other agencies and for paying back the AHRF; 
  • New criteria to ensure AHRF funds are only used for units owned by registered non-profit societies; and
  • A new AHRF Funding Guide that clearly outlines the three levels of available funding and associated requirements. 

These changes will allow approximately $9 million in pending AHRF requests – which would enable the construction of approximately 200 to 350 non-market rental units across seven sites over the next five years, depending on Provincial matching funds. The City of Coquitlam fund balance was $11.1 million at the end of 2018, and is continually being topped up by density bonus contributions from new development. 

Housing Affordability Successes
Overall, the Housing Affordability Strategy has been a significant success story for Coquitlam, expanding both market and non-market rental housing in the community through incentives and cooperation with private, non-profit and senior government partners. Aside from about 120 AHRF-funded non-marekt rental units and 4,000-plus new market rental units, approximately 800 additional subsidized units are under application.

In the decade prior to the strategy’s adoption, virtually no new rental units were built in Coquitlam. Overall, the City is now creating new market and non-market rental homes at nearly ten times the rate of previous years leading to a long-term increase in housing options in our community.

Coquitlam’s Housing Affordability Strategy has  also received an honourable mention in the 2017 Planning Institute of British Columbia Awards. 

For more information about the Housing Affordability Strategy, visit www.coquitlam.ca/housing.

About Coquitlam’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund
The AHRF acts as the City’s financial contribution towards increasing the supply of housing options for low and low-to-moderate income households in partnership with other parties. It is an important tool for contributing towards affordable housing solutions, a goal of Coquitlam’s Housing Affordability Strategy (HAS). 

Staff is working to update the overall AHRF projections, incorporating recent increases in multi-family construction volume and rising land values, as the AHRF is primarily funded through a portion of the City’s optional, zoning-based Bonus Density Program. 

The City is actively seeking applications for partnership opportunities through the fund. For more information visit www.coquitlam.ca/housing.

About Coquitlam’s Housing Affordability Strategy 
Through the Housing Affordability Strategy, Coquitlam's goal is to work with partners from the non-profit, private and public sectors to ensure that a wide variety of housing types, sizes, tenures and prices can be offered in Coquitlam in the years to come.

The Strategy also recognizes that local government's mandate and resources to address housing affordability are limited without partnerships and funding from other levels of government.

The HAS provides a vision, objectives, policy directions and specific actions to address housing affordability.

Media contact:
Andrew Merrill 
Manager, Community Planning
City of Coquitlam