Rental housing and construction industry representatives are cheering changes to the way the government shelters its most vulnerable citizens - a proposal that was questioned earlier this week by social housing advocates. In an interview with Public Eye, Rental Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia chief executive officer Al Kemp said he was "100 percent in favour" of public statements by provincial Housing Minister Rich Coleman that seem to suggest the province will shift focus from funding social housing to handing out supplements so low-income families can live in private sector dwellings.
"What we basically advocate - and the minister is saying the same thing - is that government should get out of providing housing except for people with special needs," explained Mr. Kemp. "The private sector is not good at having an apartment building with a renter who has schizophrenia and goes off her medication or an elderly renter who really needs assistance because she doesn't even remember to turn the stove off."
And why should government put the brakes on constructing and managing social housing? "Like anything," said Mr. Kemp, "the private sector does it more effectively and cost-effectively." He also said government just doesn't have enough money to keep up with the demand for those dwellings - a demand that can be met with private sector vacancies.
And British Columbia Apartment Owners and Managers Association chief executive officer Lynda Pasacreta added that rental supplements allow families "get to choose the neighborhoods they want to live in and choose the community they want to live in" - rather than confining them to a social housing project.
So, said Mr. Kemp, "there's a whole bunch of reasons we think its good government policy - good practice...And obviously it doesn't hurt our industry."
The two associations have been lobbying the government to introduce rental supplements since the Campbell administration's first term in office. "Rich and I have had informal conversations or coffee conversations over the last five or six years," - even before the minister became responsible for social housing, said Mr. Kemp. "And this is one of the things we talked about."
The Canadian Home Builders' Association of British Columbia has also lobbied the government about this matter. And it was at their annual crystal ball session where Minister Coleman, who previously ran a real estate management and consulting company, elaborated on his social housing proposal.