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Letters  

Rental subsidies all wrong

Renters United has noticed that of the six projects being considered for a rental housing grant, one, at 333 Drysdale, is not even rental housing.  According to the July 31 report to council, the project involves 171 condominium units. 

Why would a condo project be eligible for a rental housing grant of $147,503 (about six per cent of the estimated development cost charges)?

If the rental housing agreements that are associated with such grants do not regulate rents, are not tied to recognized standards of affordability, and do not secure rental housing in perpetuity as they did as recently as 2012, we think there are many questions to be posed about why the city strikes such agreements and provides such grants in the first place. The most general of these questions is why are Kelowna’s taxpayers subsidizing the development of for-profit market rentals?  

As a case in point, this year it’s recommended that Anagram Homes receive a $32,833 rental housing grant (about 7.5 per cent of DCCs) for a market rental at 1145 Pacific Ave.  What has Anagram done to deserve this public subsidy?    

In 2018, the same company was awarded a grant of $115,748 (15.6 per cent of DCCs) for a so-called “affordable” housing project where rents will land, it was said, at “10 per cent below market rates.”  

We cannot find any actual rents for the Clement Avenue project, but if we look at the now-renting Park West project at Central Green, a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,325 a month.  According to the standard definition of “affordable” used in the Healthy Housing Strategy, an apartment renting for 10 per cent less than $1,325 would only be affordable for those with incomes of $50,000.  The latest census profile (2016) shows the average total income for males in Kelowna was $56,550 and females, $36,661.  The median total income for males was $41,282.  For females it was $28,761.

When condo projects are the subject of public subsidies, hasn’t the city completely lost the plot of what public subsidies for rental housing should be about?

Renters United calls on the City of Kelowna to suspend consideration of 2019 rental housing grants until an investigation of the last 10 years’ of grants is completed, including a study of the project-to-project and year-to-year inconsistency in grant-to-DCC ratio, and recommendations made for possible retroactive corrective action and for required policy change.  

Renters United believes “affordable” rental housing must respect the definition of affordability used in the Healthy Housing Strategy – that rental housing subsidies must be restricted to affordable or non-market rental housing projects; and that rental housing agreements must secure rental housing in perpetuity or for a period of time no less than that defined in the operating agreements related to provincially subsidized non-profit rental housing (today this appears to be 60 years).

Dianne Varga, Renters United Kelowna



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