Being somewhat of a news junkie, I always read with interest anything about the current economy, especially if it is related to the cost of housing.
So I'm not surprised to hear Richmond has one of the most expensive housing costs in Canada. Sure there are lots of ads in the local papers selling homes, this one included. I do note however that the "affordable" ones are in outlying districts, not here.
But what about rental accommodation? You might have noticed there is a distinct lack of rental housing stock in this city.
Strata housing developments have strict limits on the number of rented properties they allow. The only other options for renters are houses being held for speculation, houses in a holding pattern for neighbourhood redevelopment, or upper and lower partial suites.
Renters are typically young adults, young professionals, newcomers to the city, mid-income families and seniors on a pension.
The vast majority has a regular income and they receive no government-subsidized housing. To compound the problem, many residents in Richmond make too much to get government housing subsidies, but don't make enough to save and purchase their own home.
Housing subsidies stop at a yearly household income of $35,500. But you need to make at least $80,000 a year to afford to buy here. The result is people within the range of $35,500 to $80,000 get no help from government and are expected to just pay their bills and never move up into the housing market.
The Richmond Poverty Response Committee (PRC) has been following this issue for some time. At the 2010 Building Hope Housing Forum, they realized the gap needed to be addressed or more people would end up moving out of the city. Worse still, they would fall down the housing continuum into precarious housing. Something needed to be done.
To that end, the PRC's project this year is to work with community partners to build a "made in Richmond" solution to the rental housing crunch.
The project is called Richmond Rental Connect and aims to match potential tenants in the $35,500$80,000 income range with landlords of secondary suites, and with homeowners who are contemplating building secondary suites.
In 2007, Richmond legalized the use of secondary suites in private singlefamily houses. Best practices from other cities show that secondary suites, coach houses and garden flats are the fastest way to create more rental stock.
They know that waiting for affordable housing developments to be built can take years. Plus, secondary suites are a great way for homeowners to supplement their income, while creating rental solutions in the community.
The project has three main stages. First, they will engage landlords and tenants in community conversation circles to hear about their issues and challenges.
Second, they will conduct workshops for both parties on things such as, rights and responsibilities under the Residential Tenancy Act, Federal and Provincial building subsidies (landlords) and rental readiness (tenants).
Finally they will launch an online rental registry website and provide ongoing information to people who rent in Richmond.
They are well on their way with the pilot project and are kicking it off by hosting a Landlords Listening Circle on Monday April 16 from 6 to 8: 30 p.m. at Richmond Caring Place, 7000 Minoru Blvd.
They are hoping for a big turnout of homeowners thinking about converting their unused space into a secondary suite as well as current landlords of secondary suites.
The next conversation circles will be in May for tenants. For more information, please go to www. http: /richmondprc.org or leave a message at 6042054700.