EDITORIAL: Housing needs more than talk

Affordable housing remains an issue in Surrey and White Rock, despite cities addressing it with words and plans.

It’s all too clear that one of the biggest strains on low-income people living in South Surrey and White Rock is a lack of affordable-housing options.

It would be a relief to those on old-age pensions, those receiving disability payments and those just starting out if government leaders took a stand for those most at risk of becoming homeless.

While both the cities of Surrey and White Rock have addressed the crisis with words and plans, there’s little tangible relief to show for their efforts. And that’s what matters for the people living on low income.

Elected officials and developers discussing the crisis may be all very well, but that’s of little comfort when one receives $900 a month for disability and the most modest apartment costs more than $1,000 a month.

As the cost of rent and home ownership went up, the role of local trailer parks shifted. Instead of a place for vacationers who wanted a close lot to the White Rock beach, South Surrey trailer parks became a home for full-time residents for a cost of $420-$600 a month – a way to stay within their community for some who have called South Surrey home their entire lives.

South Surrey’s rapid pace of development is closing the door on this option however. The latest victims are some 20 residents who lived in the Seacrest Motel and RV Park, many of them for more than a decade.

Last November, the provincial government announced a $500-million affordable housing plan that would help fund 22 affordable-housing projects in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. For some, it’s too little too late, especially when the affordable-housing stock seems to decrease faster than it increases.

There seemed to be a glimmer of hope when First United Church officials started exploring a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the White Rock site in 2013, a proposal that included four storeys of affordable housing. For a church property that hosts the Peninsula’s only extreme-weather shelter, it seemed like a perfect fit. However, last December, those involved in discussions confirmed that affordable housing is no longer on the table.

Lacking adequate government action, the decisions around affordable housing seem to be left in the lap of developers who don’t appear to view it as a profitable proposition.

When it comes to finding affordable housing on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, the only thing that’s cheap is talk.