Tiny homes are in, social housing as a burden on local taxpayers is out and people think the affordable housing crisis is real – so say the majority of respondents to a Cowichan Post survey.
Almost 30 per cent say they, or their families, are directly experiencing the problem.
The survey, conducted through Survey Monkey, also found that participants are decidedly against having their local property taxes going toward correcting the housing affordability issue. Sixty-eight percent were either disapproving or strongly disapproving of having their tax dollars spent that way.
Respondents strong preferred having federal or provincial governments (at about 60 per cent each) finance affordability solutions, while slightly less than 30 per cent thought local government should be involved financially.
The survey results showed good recall of the fact that voters approved a $756,000 spending referendum on affordable housing last Fall with only 33 per cent saying they were not aware of that voter approval.
On the other hand, 88 per cent said they had no knowledge of how that money was to be spent.
Fixed income seniors and local income families topped the list of those who should have priority in receiving assistance in finding affordable housing.
Tiny homes, as part of a strategy to create access to more affordable housing, had the support of more than 70 per cent of respondents, while almost 50 per cent approved of the idea of placing up to four tiny homes on vacant urban lots that were serviced with sewer and water connections. Close to 30 per cent did not like idea of tiny homes on serviced city lots and more than 20 per cent had no strong opinion.
Survey respondents were evenly split on the idea of taxpayer-funded social housing in multifamily developments, with slightly more favouring this option.
So Who Should Get The Attention?
The respondents to our survey seem to strongly favour low income families and fixed income seniors as the prime focus for affordable housing funds.
Less than 15% feel the money should be spent on the currently homeless. This is a surprising result given the commonly understood issues around homelessness. Indeed, the entire issue of affordable housing during the recent election was about addressing the currently homeless.
It’s possible that the referendum passed because voters didn’t understand the real intent of what politicians were talking about.
The Access Issue
Almost an inverse number of people believe that affordable housing is an issue as report a family member who has an issue with affordable housing.
Of course it makes sense that those directly affected would report it as an issue in their community but here threes times as many people think it’s an issue as those affected.
Clearly awareness has been heightened.
Awareness of the New Tax
While two thirds of respondents are aware that the recent election included a referendum that appropriates over $750,000 per year for affordable housing 88% do not have any idea how that money will be spent.
It seems that as taxpayers we want government to make the ‘problem’ go away but that governments have not told them, at least not yet, how that money will be spent.
So did people trust that the new spending would “solve” the problem?
Who Should Pay
Almost 70% of people who responded disapprove of property taxes going toward affordable housing issues, despite that referendum having passed with a majority vote.
So, not surprisingly, most respondents would want senior governments, not local, to shoulder the major burden of any affordable housing initiatives.
This reflects exactly the actual responsibility that the various levels of government have, with the provincial and federal governments having clear responsibility and jurisdiction.
Generally, around 50% of people support traditional modes of affordable housing , such as multifamily units like apartments.
Interestingly, about the same number support tiny home concepts, even when those might be in their own neighbourhood. “Nimbyism” , the ‘not in my backyard’ syndrome, seems to be not in play here.
Perhaps the general popularity of tiny homes is the key, or maybe that tiny homes are still seen to be single dwellings that fit the general characteristics of many neighbourhoods.
What Do Tiny Homes Look Like?
The kinds of tiny homes that some are proposing are similar to the one shown here. Proponents say that these kinds of homes could increase housing density in a way that would serve the needs of many seeking simpler, more affordable housing such as seniors or low income singles or couples.
Often these houses can be built for under $100K, but currently municipal development fees would add a significant cost, perhaps reducing the effectiveness of the idea. Still, using land more efficiently will reduce costs and give more people opportunities.
Patrick Hrushowy is a 45 year veteran of journalism, communications consulting, and business background, who just can’t stop writing.