City staff’s revised report on the state of housing and homelessness in Surrey won council’s favour on Monday after the Safe Surrey Coalition majority found the first one in November did not adequately sing the city’s praises.
Coun. Laurie Guerra said the problem with the first version was that it contained old data.
“It’s old data, it’s data from a time when we weren’t even mayor and council,” she explained. That Surrey Housing Needs Report, at 246 pages, was found by the SSC council members to be too negative.
It was sent back to be updated. The new report, entitled Surrey Housing Needs Report – Update on City Actions, is 253 pages and provides council “with an update on areas where the City plays a key role in addressing housing need in the region,” and what Surrey has done to address these needs.”
“This report is fantastic,” Guerra said of the second corporate report, which came before council on Jan. 17. “Let’s be clear, Surrey is doing a fantastic job in comparison with other cities in Metro when it comes to affordable, supportive and rental housing.”
The provincial government requires the city to submit its report to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) by April.
“I do think it’s important that we put our Surrey lens on it or our Surrey way on it, because we are leaders, especially in this particular topic,” Coun. Allison Patton said.
The new report notes that since the introduction of an Affordable Housing Fee in April 2018, $2.06 million has been collected from all new non-rental housing projects and deposited into the City of Surrey’s Affordable Housing Reserve fund. These funds, the report states, will be used to purchase land “or otherwise support” new affordable rental housing projects.
“I thought the November 22 report was great, I thought this one was fine and I will support it,” said Coun. Brenda Locke, of Surrey Connect. “I think it’s important that we just be straight up about where we all are with housing and I don’t think it’s a reflection on Surrey at all. We know just about everywhere in Canada but for sure all of Metro Vancouver is going through the same issues around affordability and how we move forward and manage what we’re doing in terms of housing.”
Surrey population is at 614,000 and is expected to reach 714,300 by 2031. According to the report, Surrey’s median age is 38.7 years compared to 40.9 for the rest of the region, and the city’s population grew by 31 per cent between 2006 and 2016, far surpassing the regional average of 16 per cent. Roughly 36 per cent of Surrey’s residents immigrated to Canada since 1980 and 58 per cent of the city’s population identifies as visible minority.
“We know that Surrey is certainly a place where new Canadians tend to land. We need housing,” Locke said. “I don’t think being concerned whether the report is making us look good or not is really the question; the question is just to get the truth out there about where we’re sitting so that we can attract those federal and provincial dollars and even Metro Vancouver dollars if we can to help support us with housing.”
“I just want to get this to the UBCM,” she added. “I think we need to participate in an honest and genuine way with all levels of government on this issue.”
Coun. Linda Annis said that housing throughout Metro Vancouver, particularly when it comes to affordable housing, is “problematic at best and Surrey of course is probably hit the hardest because we’re growing so quickly.
“Knowing that we need another 41,000-plus houses, or homes I should say, over the next 10 years is pretty frightening but I was pleased to see in this report that staff is looking at innovative ways to bring this to fruition,” Annis said. “The other area too that I think we need to be looking at how we can make it easier for not-for-profits in our community to build housing for people that have disabilities or seniors. I think it absolutely critical that we look at that component as well.
“We need to be looking at how we can build more accessible and adaptive housing and I’m not seeing that,” Annis said. “I know we are just making the, meeting the minimum amount requirement but I think as a city we need to do better than that.”
Mayor Doug McCallum called the new report “excellent” as it “captures where Surrey is currently with our growth and so forth.”