Backgrounder: Vancity's investment in affordable housing

Vancity invests in stable and affordable housing because we believe it is a driver of economic self-reliance, which in turn improves the well-being of our local communities. As a member-owned financial institution, we’re using our financial tools to improve the health and well-being of our members and their communities.

Vancity offers learning resources and tools along with professional advice, to help members choose the mortgage option that’s tailored to their unique needs. We’re also working to increase the supply of affordable rental and owned housing.

When adequate and affordable housing is available, it reduces pressure on subsidized housing units by getting more people into private housing. We’re working with a wide range of partners to increase and upgrade the stock of affordable housing, including: emergency and homeless shelters, transition housing, non-profit or subsidized housing, co-op housing, rental housing, on-reserve housing, life leases and property ownership.

Housing in British Columbia

In Metro Vancouver, real estate is becoming increasingly unaffordable, excluding many low- and middle-income earners from the rental and owned housing market.

  • 45 per cent of renter households in British Columbia are paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent – which is 12 per cent higher than the national average and a key indicator of unaffordability.1
  • 24 percent of renters in Metro Vancouver are spending more than half their income on rent, leaving them with little disposable income2
  • To meet the needs of the region's projected population growth, at least 6,500 units of housing must be built each year. From 2006 to 2011, there were about 650 units built each year, representing 10 per cent of the demand.3
  • 60 per cent of those in the housing market say that the lack of an adequate down payment to qualify for a mortgage is one of the key barriers to purchasing a suitable home.4
  • The number of homeless people in the region is increasing every year, with more than 1,800 homeless people in the City of Vancouver in 2016 and 2,777 homeless people living in Metro Vancouver in 2014.5
  • The annual costs of social supports are roughly $72,000 for the transiently homeless and roughly $135,000 for the chronically homeless.6
  • A disproportionate number of households in need of adequate, suitable and affordable housing are Aboriginal.7

Increasing supply of affordable housing

  • Since 2009, Vancity has funded investments of more than $350 million to support the development affordable housing stock in B.C.
  • In 2015, Vancity’s real-estate lending funded 1,042 affordable housing units.
  • Since 2004, Vancity has granted about $9.4 million in the affordable housing sector.
  • Since the beginning of 2014, Vancity has granted more than $3.9 million to organizations in B.C. for affordable housing initiatives.
  • Since 2011, Vancity has disbursed $4.1 million in pre-development funds, resulting in 1,257 purpose-built below market rental housing units.
  • In 2013, Vancity introduced a Down Payment Helper Mortgage which provides pre-approved homebuyers with up to 50 per cent of their down payment.
  • Vancity offers financial planning and advice initiatives that assist members into appropriate housing, such as:
    - mortgage and loan calculators
    - financial planning and budgeting aids, such as the Good Money Plan
    - advice from mobile mortgage specialists and an online first-time homebuyers hub
    - financial workshops on a broad range of topics.

Funded affordable housing projects

The following are examples of affordable housing projects Vancity has funded through loans or grants throughout the Lower Mainland and Victoria regions.

  • $200,000 to Semiahmoo House Society to develop 70 unit rental apartment. Some of units will be provided to people with developmental disabilities and the remainder will be rented at reasonable "low end of market" rents.
  • $250,000 to Catalyst Community Development Society Project to deliver projects that generate revenues for re-investment to create deeper affordability and high performance buildings, including 49 units of below market rental housing at Dockside Green.
  • $500,000 to Community Housing Land Trust to deliver 358 units of housing affordable to a broad range of Vancouver residents, from the most vulnerable to those who simply need an affordable place to call home.
  • $70,000 to Affordable Housing Journalism Project, which promotes affordable housing solutions that allow working middle class to live within city where they work.
  • $250,000 to British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Association to develop a Rental Housing Index. BCNPHA is undertaking a three-year research and development project to create a web-based rental housing index that will set the baseline for reporting on the state of the housing sector in B.C.
  • $250,000 line of credit for Trafalgar Co-operative Housing Association for ongoing renovation/maintenance.
  • $400,000 term loan to Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia for tenant improvements to the Co-op Housing Federation.
  • $1,174,000 to support Greater Victoria Housing Society to acquire and develop affordable rental housing.
  • Provision of a $50,000 grant, along with a $1,875,000 mortgage to Cowichan Green Community Society, to develop The Station - a community hub that rents space to like-minded organizations and includes affordable housing units.
  • $160,000 to 60 West Cordova Homeownership as a subsidy for four affordable condominiums to be purchased by low-income buyers.
  • $180,000 to First Avenue Athletes Village Housing Cooperative for a Security of Tenure Fund for co-op members, preventing economic evictions and allowing members who fall on hard times to remain in their homes.
  • $500,000 to More Homes, More Affordability to help deploy the Community Housing Land Trust Foundation as a regional intermediary to assist all levels of government and community stakeholders to support the delivery of community-based affordable housing.
  • $1,200,000 to Streetohome Foundation for the renovation and expansion of the historic Taylor Manor in Vancouver, providing 56 homeless individuals with supportive housing.

Supporting the development of impact real estate projects

The following are examples of how Vancity has supported community investment opportunities (through lending, investment, and grants). We engage in three tiers of activity:

  • Project Support: co-developing proactive and responsive tools and accessing resources to co-generate impact real estate projects. The mutual learning from collaborating on real projects provides foundational insights for Vancity on its strengths and gaps, as well as building our integrity and confidence in serving our members effectively.
  • Sector Development: building partnerships to enhance our collective understanding of systemic strengths and weaknesses as a means to identify—and raise awareness of—the key issues, opportunities and challenges facing the impact real estate sector
  • Policy Development: transforming current public policy into an enabling environment for high impact real estate development by collaborating with members, sector partners, and various levels of government on ways to address key issues, opportunities, and challenges.

Specifically, Vancity, in close partnership with Vancity Community Foundation, provides capital products to support affordable housing projects at each stage in the development process:

  • Vision: grant support (usually <$5,000), where necessary, to articulate expected impact and innovation for the project and how it reinforces the mission of the partnering member. Available from Community Investment and/or Vancity Community Foundation;
  • Feasibility: grant support (usually between $15-25,000), where critical for preliminary development concepts and feasibility assessments and to understand and maximize the potential for innovation and impact. Through Community Investment and/or Vancity Community Foundation;
  • Business Plan: grant support (usually between $15-25,000) to cost-share business plan development, including site selection, control, green building strategies and incentives, roles and responsibilities, assembling the development team, fund-raising and fund-development.From Community Investment and/or Vancity Community Foundation;
  • Pre-Construction: revolving Pre-Development Loan Fund (usually up to $200,000) through Community Investment and Vancity Community Foundation, repaid through construction financing, and customized Community Investment funds to address equity shortfalls;
  • Construction: commercial real estate construction financing up to $40 million (higher with syndication) with variable rate mortgages and 6-18-month terms, including escrow financing, available for land acquisitions and multi-family residential properties, with specialized not-for-profit lending expertise including cash management, beneficial partnerships and financial literacy; and;
  • Occupancy: take-out financing up to $40 million (higher with syndication) with variable rate mortgages and 6-18-month terms and/or commercial mortgages with a range of terms and amortization periods for refinancing or renovating properties, or consolidating debts.

Last updated June, 2016


1 Rental housing index
2 Rental housing index
3 “Making the Case for Rental Housing,” a presentation by Janet Kreda, Senior Regional Planner, Metro Vancouver, to Affordable Housing Symposium, November 2, 2010.
4 Mustel/Vancity poll: Down Payment Helper Mortagage, March 21-27, 2014.
5 3 Ways to Home, Results of the 2014 Homeless Count in the Metro Vancouver Region, ii.
6 Gaetz, Stephen (2012): The Real Cost of Homelessness: Can We Save Money by Doing the Right Thing? Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.]
73 Ways to Home, Results of the 2014 Homeless Count in the Metro Vancouver Region, ii.