BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong announced the provincial budget for 2017 on Tuesday, with huge changes for MSP premiums and some help for homebuyers.
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Speaking to the legislature, de Jong acknowledged the cost of housing was a massive concern for British Columbians, but said the problem isn’t easy to resolve.
“We can’t just focus on getting people into the market,” said de Jong. “And it won’t help those who by choice or necessity are seeking rental housing.”
“The key to improving housing affordability over the longer term is to create new supply.”
Speaking to reporters earlier, the minister went even further.
“Where I don’t think we’ve done enough work collectively is on the supply side… I think there’s more work we can do to see more homes built more quickly.”
That said, here’s what the budget has to offer on housing:
- The property transfer tax threshold is increasing for first-time homebuyers. From February 22, 2017, they’ll be exempt from paying property transfer tax on the first $500,000 of the fair market value of their new home, instead of just the first $475,000.
- As of January 10, 2017, the Home Owner Grants phase out threshold will be increased to $1.6 million, from $1.2 million. The grant given to homeowners will be reduced by $5 for every $1,000 of assessed value above that threshold.
- The province says it will be exploring ways to partner and invest with local governments to speed up the approval of housing development permits.
- Between 2016 and 2021, the government plans to spend $355 million on investing in affordable housing, creating 2,000 housing units.
The big news here is the plan to end MSP premiums, especially since BC is the only province still to collect them, something de Jong previously said was crucial to funding healthcare.
However, with healthcare making up 41% of the budget, and an extra $4.2 billion going towards healthcare in this budget, there’s plenty more to take in.
“It has never been clearer that mental health challenges, which are inextricably linked with addiction issues, require more resources,” de Jong told the legislature.
That said, here’s what the budget had to offer for health care this year:
- MSP remains fixed at $75 per person per month
- From January 1, 2018 premiums will be reduced by 50% for households with an annual net income of $120,000 or less. You’ll need to register for the discount, unless you’re receiving assistance already. Details of how to register will be released soon.
- The threshold for exemption from paying MSP at all is increasing by $2,000 to $26,000 for individuals and $35,000 for couples with two children.
- The province plans to eliminate MSP premiums completely, although no timeline has yet been set for this.
Mental health and substance abuse
- $12 million for up to 28 more specialized youth addictions treatment beds
- More youth services at up to five locations helping at least 1,200 more people each year
- Up to $5 million for mental health services for post-secondary students
- $11 million over 3 years for BC Centre for Substance Abuse
- $10 million extra funding to reduce waitlists for substance use treatment services
- $5 million for an Action Plan on overdose prevention in 2017, including Naloxone training, street outreach, and new supervised injection sites
One more thing…
- The tax rate on a 200 pack of cigarettes will go up on October 1, 2017 from $47.80 to to $49.40.