What is a housing needs report?

    Understanding Housing and Homelessness in New Westminster is a housing needs report. A housing needs report identifies existing and projected gaps in housing supply by collecting and analyzing data about the local population, the economy, housing, and future trends and by listening to the perspectives of residents, businesses and housing stakeholders. The housing need and demand figures in the report are estimates, not targets. In a future planning process, the City will determine its housing priorities by balancing available City and other resources with other City priorities.

    What do we hope to achieve by consulting with residents?

    The purpose of Understanding Housing and Homelessness in New Westminster: Your Voice is to learn from residents about their perspectives on housing challenges in New Westminster. We want to:  

    • Have participation from people of all ages, interests, communities and lifestyles.
    • Engage with residents that do not traditionally participate in in-person engagement, including persons with lived experience of housing vulnerability. 
    • Obtain public and stakeholder sentiment about housing needs. 
    • Identify community perspectives on possible City and others’ actions for addressing housing need and demand.

    How did we get here?

    A draft housing needs report has been prepared using the best available data and methods, and the perspectives of local housing and service providers. Consulting with persons who are or have been precariously housed, with private and non-profit housing providers and developers, and the public will expand the range of perspectives on which the final report will be based.  The final report will incorporate the feedback we’ve heard and it will be received by Council and posted on the City’s website.

    What is the timeline for completion?

    The project began in May 2020, and a draft housing needs report has been prepared. The final report is expected to be completed and conveyed to City Council by summer 2021.

    What do you mean by housing need and housing demand?

    Housing need refers to housing required by households (usually low-income) who cannot afford to buy or rent available housing at market prices be it rental or homeownership.

    Housing demand is created by households with the ability to pay for market rate housing, assumed to be those households with incomes $35,000 and above and is usually related to expected future household growth.

    What is affordable housing?

    Housing is considered affordable when 30% or less of household before-tax income goes towards paying for housing costs.  Households with very-low or low-incomes tend to have the most affordability problems. Two common forms of affordable housing for very low- and low-income households are non-market housing and below-market housing.   However, even households with higher incomes can face affordability problems with high and rising rental and ownership costs.

    What is the City's role in housing?

    Municipalities play a lead role in land use planning and development, and in facilitating an adequate supply of housing for current and future residents.  Other levels of government possess the legislative tools and financial resources to address large and costly public policy issues like lack of housing affordability, security of tenure, and speculation.   The City depends upon funding partnerships with the provincial and federal government to facilitate more housing that is affordable to very low, and low-income households who cannot afford to pay market rates.

    What kinds of actions has the City taken to address housing affordability?

    The City has been acting within its jurisdiction and financial capacity to address housing affordability and homelessness, beginning in the 1970s.  Policies addressing market rental housing, such as the Secure Market Rental Policy and the City’s regulations to deter renovictions are examples of policies and regulations that aim to expand and preserve the all-important purpose-built rental housing supply. The City has also been active in addressing homelessness and the affordability crisis and has provided City-owned sites to non-profit agencies at favourable terms for several new non-market housing projects, including a supportive modular housing project for women who are homeless.   New Westminster was the first municipality in the province to require a minimum percentage of three-bedroom units in new multi-family developments with its Family Friendly Housing Policy.  

    Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected housing needs?

    The COVID-19 pandemic was underway during the completion of this work, and the data and key informant perspectives may not capture the pandemic’s full impact on residents, the economy, and the housing system. Legislation requires that housing needs reports be updated every five years, and future updates of this report can better reflect the unknown impacts of the pandemic.