How to define affordable

Area poses a daunting hurdle to those seeking affordable housing

Trying to define affordable housing in the mid-Island area offers as many problems as actually trying to find a place to live, if the means to buy a so-called affordable home is simply outside of your reach.

With an average house price well above most parts of Vancouver Island, and a vacancy rate just under one per cent, the Parksville and Qualicum Beach area poses a daunting hurdle for a home if you’re only making minimum wage — or even earning anywhere near the average wages of workers here.

It’s an issue that impacts people from all walks of life — young families, single men and women and even seniors on fixed incomes. Trying to find a decent place to live — and be able to afford to do so — is the base issue of this series of stories by The News, as directed by guest editor Renate Sutherland of the Society of Organized Services. Sutherland was invited to be part of a pilot project with The News, offering community members the chance to direct coverage in the local paper.

The questions are posed: what is affordable housing in our part of the Island? Who is affected by high prices and low incomes? Where do those people end up living? What solutions are being sought and are there any success stories?

Throughout August, The News delivers the results of our research and interviews with people who are looking for housing, and those who provide it.

WHAT DOES AFFORDABLE MEAN?

So, what is affordable housing? It’s not necessarily social housing — or homes provided to people in special circumstances (such as health or extreme poverty issues) and subsidized by the various levels of government. 

Most people and local government would agree what is meant by affordable housing is, a place where regular people can live. A place whose rent or mortgage does not take up most of a person’s monthly wage.

Yet, even that is relative. 

Those who can afford more, generally pay for more. 

That, however, has become a trend and has driven up local home prices.