BC government announces ambitious plan to tackle housing affordability and supply

Apr 4 2023, 5:32 pm

More than a month after the provincial government announced it will set aside over $4 billion over the next three years for housing, we now have a better picture of how it will be spent exactly.

On Monday, Premier David Eby and BC’s minister of housing Ravi Kahlon released their Homes For People action plan — a comprehensive strategy for tackling housing affordability and supply issues. It focuses on the four priorities of unlocking more homes faster, delivering better and more affordable homes, helping those with the greatest need, and creating a housing market for people instead of speculators.

“Even though our province is currently building more housing than ever before, it’s just not enough to meet the need. This plan will take us to the next level with unprecedented actions to tackle the challenges head on, delivering even more homes for people, faster,” said Eby.

One of the most significant wide-sweeping moves will be the provincial government’s use of its powers over municipal governments to change zoning, allowing up to four units on a single-family lot across BC. This is intended to catalyze townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes, with homeowners provided with financial support to help cover renovating costs.

In order to realize new housing supply, the provincial government will continue to work with municipal governments to speed up permitting, including making BC a “North American leader in digital permitting and construction.”

The province will also launch a new public housing program called BC Builds, specifically dedicated to building affordable homes for middle-income households. The new building program includes buying land near major public transit hubs to build up to 10,000 homes over the next 10 to 15 years. In order to catalyze the creation of supply, the province will look into policies that help alleviate the construction labour shortage.

When it comes to specific provincially funded housing supply, the plan calls for generating thousands of additional social housing units over the next 10 years, including 6,000 more for households who are larger families and seniors, 1,750 more homes for Indigenous people on- and off-reserve, and 1,500 more homes for women and children escaping violence.

For those experiencing homelessness, the provincial government is committing to building 3,900 more supportive housing units and 240 more purpose-built complex care housing units at 12 locations for individuals with complex mental health and addictions challenges, as well as creating new teams to address encampments and partnering to redevelop and replace aging and dilapidated single-room occupancy (SRO) units in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

BC Housing’s aging properties will be revitalized and expanded. Similarly, the province will help revitalize co-op housing.

Efforts to build more student housing for post-secondary institutions will be furthered, with the province committing to build 4,000 more on-campus units.

Other previously announced measures include a $500 million Rental Protection Fund to acquire affordable rental buildings at risk of being sold for their redevelopment potential into market housing, and establishing a rent bank to support tenants struggling to keep their homes.

Eby is also realizing a promise he made during the BC NDP leadership race last year by implementing a flipping tax to help reduce speculation activity. There will also be a “crackdown on criminal activity in real estate” and stricter enforcement on short-term rentals.

Many of these various policy directions require legislation changes, which will be made this fall.

“We are in urgent need of more housing throughout British Columbia, which is why we are taking strong steps through our Homes for People strategy to close the gap between supply and demand,” said Kahlon.

“We are working with our partners to unlock more homes across the spectrum of housing faster than ever, so everyone in our province can have a safe, secure and stable place to call home.”

The provincial government is planning to spend $12 billion on housing-related measures over the next 10 years, adding to the $7 billion it previously spent since 2018.

As of the end of 2022, there are about 75,000 homes underway — including units under construction or realized by policy changes — including 32,500 units through BC Housing, 7,800 units as student housing, 20,800 units catalyzed by the speculation and vacancy tax in Metro Vancouver, 11,000 units by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) rental financing, 600 units on 2019 BC Building Code changes for secondary suites, and 2,000 units on removing the ability for stratas to ban rentals.

By 2027/2028, the provincial government is aiming to have 108,600 units open or under construction, including 60,000 units through BC Housing, 9,800 units as student housing, and 38,800 units through policy changes, such as the speculation and vacancy tax in Metro Vancouver, CMHC rental financing, and BC Building Code changes.

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