Affordable Housing

Affordable housing supply is critical to maintain so as to ensure a diverse and equitable community while also providing affordability for all earning levels of the local workforce. This has been a primary focus of the District since 2014.

Squamish Needs More Affordable Housing

The District has done much work in this area already and continues to explore new ways to use local government tools to boost affordable housing supply. Three examples include:

  1. Squamish Affordable Housing Society to manage units and explore new projects (in place)
  2. Community Amenity Contributions from developers (expected to achieve 5-15% of affordable units from all rezonings)
  3. Partnership projects such as the 76-unit Spirit Creek rental apartments where the District donated land and BC Housing provided funding (this work is ongoing as new project opportunities are being explored). The Westwinds Seniors Housing is another partnership project that added new affordable units to Squamish.

Based on provincial targets identified in the District's 2023 Housing Needs Report:

  • 9,600 new housing units will be required in Squamish by 2036; 6,840 of these will be required by 2031.
  • Of the 6,840 units, 42% will need to be affordable to households earning below $70,000 per year (2,873 units).
  • For housing to be considered affordable, it should cost no more than 30% of gross household income. At an income of $70k per year, housing costs (rent/mortgage, property taxes, heating, strata fees) should not exceed $1,750 per month.
  • The District defines affordable housing as: housing that costs 30% or less of a total income that is 80% or less of the Median Total Income in Squamish. This currently ranges from a total income of $35,488 to $100,952 depending on the household type.

Latest Updates

The District of Squamish has been successful in securing a $7M grant from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Accelerator Fund to facilitate housing delivery in Squamish. The funding will help to increase housing supply for missing-middle and low- to moderate-income households over the coming years. Read the release

Bylaw 3018 replaces Section 4.49 with new general regulation related to affordable housing. These new general regulations include:

  • Allow affordable housing in any zone where residential is a principal use, except in high-hazard areas. 
  • Allow the height of a principal building where all of the units are secured as affordable housing to increase to 23 metres (six stories).
  • Exempt affordable housing buildings from lot coverage.
  • Apply a parking requirement of one space per dwelling unit for affordable housing units.
  • An amendment to Section 4.25 Gross Floor Area is also proposed to exempt gross floor area use for affordable housing.
  • (Separately, an amendment to Section 4.10 Height of Buildings and Structures is included to apply a maximum building height of 26.5 metres or 8 storeys, which ever is less, in any zone that may permit a taller building height, as this is currently the tallest building height that the District’s Fire Department can safely fight a fire in).

The bylaw was passed after a public hearing for the District of Squamish Zoning Bylaw No. 2200, 2011, Amendment Bylaw (Affordable Housing & Public Service) No. 3018, 2023 on Tuesday, November 7 at 6 p.m. at the Regular Meeting of the Council.

Due to additional considerations surfaced by District Staff prior to the October 3, 2023 public hearing, the hearing scheduled for Bylaw Amendment 3000 was cancelled. These considerations relate to the level of flood hazard on properties located in a Debris Flow Hazard Area or a Controlled Densification Area. The issue is also relevant to the Public Service Use amendments proposed in Bylaw 2976, which was given third reading at the September 12, 2023 Regular Council Meeting.

Issues with both Bylaws (3000 and 2976) have now been addressed in Bylaw Amendment 3018, 2023.

  • Staff have identified that the amendments previously proposed as part of Bylaw 3000 could allow for higher residential density in Debris Flow Hazard Areas and Controlled Densification Areas than what is supported in the Hazard Lands Policies in Section 11 of the Official Community Plan.
  • To address this discrepancy, Staff are proposing to add conditions of use clarifying that affordable housing use, including affordable housing that falls under the definition of public service, and public service use is not permitted at densities higher than existing zoning if the property is located in a Debris Flow Hazard Area, Restricted Densification Area or Limited Densification Area.
  • An additional condition is included to clarify that affordable housing use and public service use on a property located in a Conditional Densification Area is permitted if the specific conditions identified in the Official Community Plan are met. These conditions have been brought into Zoning Bylaw Amendment No. 3018 for clarity.

Bylaw 3018 proposes to replace Section 4.49 with a new general regulation related to affordable housing. These general regulations would:

  • Allow affordable housing in any zone where residential is a principal use.
  • Allow the height of a principal building where all of the units are secured as affordable housing to increase to 23 metres (six stories).
  • Exempt affordable housing buildings from lot coverage.
  • Apply a parking requirement of one space per dwelling unit for affordable housing units.
  • An amendment to Section 4.25 Gross Floor Area is also proposed to exempt gross floor area use for affordable housing.
  • (Separately, an amendment to Section 4.10 Height of Buildings and Structures is included to apply a maximum building height of 26.5 metres or 8 storeys, which ever is less, in any zone that may permit a taller building height, as this is currently the tallest building height that the District’s Fire Department can safely fight a fire in).

The District is proposing amendments to the Zoning Bylaw intended to help remove barriers and facilitate affordable housing in any zone where residential is a principal use. The public is invited to attend a public hearing on Tuesday, October 3 at 6 p.m.

 

The $4 billion Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Accelerator Fund provides incentive funding to local governments across Canada encouraging initiatives aimed at increasing housing supply. District staff received agreement in principle from Council in July to apply for the grant based on a plan aimed to accelerate housing delivery – especially affordable housing developments and missing-middle housing.

The funding is part of a National Housing Strategy aimed at creating a new generation of housing in Canada. It is based on the need to provide a balanced supply of housing. The following is an excerpt from the NHS website:

Rising house prices have made homeownership more difficult. They have pushed many would-be homeowners out of the market completely and raised the need for more affordable housing options. Additionally, while Canada’s rental housing supply has housed many Canadians for decades, the rental housing stock is aging. Many buildings are in poor shape and in need of costly repairs. The overall supply is not keeping up with needs. (https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/nhs/guidepage-strategy/priority-areas-for-action)

Learn more about the grant application and the District’s Housing Action Plan that would be funded.

City Spaces Consulting was retained by the District in 2022 to complete a Housing Needs Report, and this was presented to Council in April. This report is a requirement of the Province of British Columbia under the Local Government Act.

The Province’s new housing plan will speed up delivery of new homes, increase the supply of middle-income housing, fight speculation and help those who need it the most. Read the news release.

The Housing Supply Act gives the Province the authority to set housing targets in municipalities, starting with those with the greatest needs and highest projected growth. It provides a framework for housing targets to be established for specified municipalities, and for the minister or Lieutenant Governor in Council to take certain actions if housing targets are not met. View the Housing Supply Act.


Housing by the Numbers

Affordable Rental Housing (non-market):

  • 63 units under construction:
    • SEAandSKY (Waterfront Landing) - 55 units* 
    • Garibaldi Springs (Phase 1) - 8 units* 

Market Rental Housing (purpose-built):

  • 40 units built since 2017:
    • Northyards (Phase 1) - 40 units
  • 271 units under construction:
    • Garibaldi Springs (Phase 1) - 8 units
    • SEAandSKY (Waterfront Landing) - 140 units
    • Northyards (Phase 2) - 38 units
    • 1111 Pioneer Way - 18 units
    • Ashlu (Third and Victoria) - 67 units

*These new units are managed by the new Squamish Community Housing Society. For inquiries, please contact [email protected]


Projects

The Westwinds seniors housing development in Squamish is now open, providing 232 affordable rental homes for low-income seniors. 

Located at 38275 Third Avenue, the five-storey building features a mix of one-bedroom and one- bedroom-plus-den units. Eight of the units are wheelchair accessible. Residents will have access to a range of amenities, including a fitness area, multi-purpose common areas and storage space for personal items, bicycles and scooters.

Construction on the Spirit Creek Apartments is now complete. Sea to Sky Community Services Society (SSCS) is operating the building. For more details, including eligibility and how to apply, please visit SSCS website.

 


Squamish Community Housing Society

The District has established the Squamish Community Housing Society to increase the supply, availability and access to affordable housing options across the community and entire housing spectrum. The Society will serve as a single point of access for residents to access non-market and affordable housing rentals, and will work with the District of Squamish, non-profit housing agencies and the community to grow and sustain a diverse range and supply of affordable housing options.

The Society was formally established in December 2021 and became operational in October 2023. The Society is the single point of contact for affordable housing in the community outside of individual non-profit housing providers, and assumes management of affordable housing units and their waitlists that are being provided in new developments as part of Community Amenity Contributions related to rezonings. The Society is also tasked with the development of a new housing project in the community within the next few years.

The Squamish Community Housing Society operates independently in collaboration with the District, as a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors comprised of a member of District of Squamish Council as well as representatives from:

  • Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society;
  • Sea to Sky Community Services Society;
  • Squamish Helping Hands Society;
  • Squamish Senior Living Society;
  • Squamish Nation or Hiy̓ám̓ ta Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Housing Society;
  • A member of the public who occupies an affordable housing unit within the District of Squamish;
  • A member representing the private development sector, such as a real estate developer or residential builder;
  • Two members with expertise or experience in the housing or legal sector, such as a housing advocate, social worker or property manager.

Policies

The Perpetually Affordable Housing (PAH) Policy was approved in March 2020. This policy provides the definition of what the District wants to see as affordable housing provided by developers in market housing developments as part of any Community Amenity Contribution package (the package of new amenities provided by a developer as part of a rezoning application, principally oriented towards affordable housing or new municipal facilities). The PAH Policy targets homes that are intended for households with a range between 80% and 120% of local median income, and provides rental rates for bachelor suites through to 3 bedroom homes. The minimum sizes required are the same as those required under BC Housing standards.

Homes provided under the PAH Policy are targeted more at low to moderate incomes, rather than requiring very low rental rates (or deep subsidy homes). This decision was made because those occupants of more affordable/deep subsidy homes often require programs and supports, options that the District does not have the staff or resources to provide. The District will continue to work with its’ non-profit partners in the community and BC Housing, who can provide the necessary supports, to provide these more affordable homes.

The District has undertaken the following in recent years to support the development of affordable housing:

  • Maintaining a fast-track approval process for up to five applicants at a time for projects that deliver 100% purpose rental buildings, 100% commercial buildings, or 100% affordable housing projects;
  • Provided two new staff to the Building Department in 2022, in addition to those added in 2021, to ensure that fast-tracked permits are processed and that other residential developments can be processed in a reasonable time;
  • Leveraging municipal tools such as the provision of land, rezoning and creating a variety of policies in order to support affordable housing;
  • Created a policy to restrict the redevelopment of rental housing to strata or other for-sale properties;
  • Neighbourhood planning processes within established neighbourhoods in order to increase housing diversity and attainability.

Resources

Affordable Housing Inquiries

Community Planning
District of Squamish

Phone: 604.815.6872
Email: [email protected]

Sea to Sky Community Services
38024 Fourth Avenue
Box 949
Squamish V8B 0A7

Phone: 604 892 5796
Email: admin@sscs.ca

www.sscs.ca

Squamish Senior Living Society
38275 Third Avenue
Squamish  V8B 0Z6

Phone: 604.892.3311 
Email: contact form available on website

www.westwindsseniorliving.ca

Squamish Community Housing Society
Phone: TBA
Email: [email protected]