In 2018, the federal government announced that funding would be awarded to Urban Core Ventures, a Victoria-based developer, for converting its upcoming condominium development into a purpose-built rental building.
With funding from the federal Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFi) The Cook Street Village Project at 200 Cook St. would now consist of 47 rental units, of which 21 would be affordable units and five fully accessible units. The 21 units would be priced at 30 per cent below the median household income of the area, while the remaining units would be offered at 10 per cent below market value.
Since the project has taken shape many people have expressed interest in the units, especially if it comes at an affordable rate, but many have also received a shock at the prices.
Chris Stiebel and his partner were just two of the people to feel this way when they received communications back from Urban Core Ventures about rental options. The quote they received was for the 10 per cent below prices.
A 388 sq. ft. studio would start at $1,600, while a 1243 sq. ft. three-bedroom unit would start at $3,850.
“It’s outrageous,” Stiebel. “We realized that it as just typical of Victoria, and thought ‘Oh great, another expensive place.’”
Paying $1,600 per month for a studio suite would equate to $19,200 per year in rent, well above 30 per cent of the median Victoria income, which the 2019 Vital Signs report lists at $37, 481. That is without the $150 quoted for monthly parking rates.
“The place we live in now is cheaper than that,” Stiebel said.
But the issue isn’t about whether or not the unit is affordable to the average city resident; it’s if the idea of affordability falls under the federally-recognized definition of affordable. The Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as “When a household spends less than 30 per cent of its gross income on acceptable shelter.”
That’s the difference: household income – potentially the incomes of several people, but likely a couple. This is despite the fact that a less-than-400 sq. ft unit would likely only house one person.
The 30 per cent mark is also determined by the median household income of the area, which will vary across the country.
Urban Core Ventures president Leonard Cole said that in the project’s area, the median household income sits somewhere around $95,000.
“Everyone has their own perception of affordable,” Cole said. “Some people think it’s subsidized housing, but it’s not.”
Despite government definitions the prices at The Cook Street Village Project are well out of the comfort zone for Stiebel, who like many others will continue to look elsewhere.