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Vancouver rental building part of federal plans to 'innovate' in housing sector


Published on February 16, 2017

OTTAWA — The federal government's bid to find new ways to finance the construction of affordable housing is yielding its first results.

A new $3.5 million, three-storey, 40-unit building that came about through a small federal fund that financially backstops projects that are innovative in their financing or construction techniques, is to be inaugurated in Vancouver today.

The federally backed project could be scaled for use in other cities to help house homeless populations, provide disaster relief, or quickly house people displaced by construction in fast-growing cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal, says Luke Harrison, CEO of the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency.

The Vancouver housing authority received $1.5 million from the federal affordable rental housing innovation fund to complete the project that include movable, modular units and accompanying foundations that can be easily set up on undeveloped, city-owned land.

The $200 million innovation fund, overseen by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., is expected to support the construction of up to 4,000 new rental units over five years.

The fund is part of a two-pronged effort announced in last year's budget to increase the supply of affordable rental housing in the country.

"Costs are high and to just build rental in general is not an easy task these days," said Simon Lahoud, senior manager of the fund.

"We're ... trying to see if people can come up with innovative ideas and new ideas and new ways to get around that, so that we could overcome that barrier and create more affordable units."

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the Liberals will soon unveil details of a financing initiative that will provide up to $500 million a year for five years in low-cost loans to cities and housing developers to help them through the riskiest stage of development for new rental housing projects.

"These things we are launching now because we know how important affordable rental housing is. We know that doing this now will provide a valuable input into the national housing strategy when it unfolds after this year's budget," Duclos said.

The housing strategy will look at the gamut of housing options and outline a range of tools and options that the Liberals can use to make housing more affordable. The final details are now slated to be released after this year's federal budget

Duclos said "innovation" will be a key word in any future actions the Liberals take to make housing more available and affordable.

— Follow @jpress on Twitter.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press