BC government to create new public housing development initiative under David Eby leadership

Sep 29 2022, 3:31 am

David Eby, the clear frontrunner in the race to become the next Premier of British Columbia, has announced his plan to create a new aggressive public housing development entity that will build affordable housing suitable for the vast majority of residents: middle-class households.

Through the initiative, called BC Builds, there will be a “substantial expansion of government’s role in facilitating the delivery of middle-class homes that people can actually afford.”

He has specifically highlighted the public housing systems of the island city state of Singapore, the city of Vienna, and even Whistler as examples of what will be achieved by BC Builds. The Resort Municipality of Whistler’s Whistler Housing Authority, for instance, has about 2,100 units of affordable ownership and rental housing, which is a key housing supply for the thousands of employees that work for the town’s tourism and hospitality-based businesses.

Under BC Builds, the provincial government will work with municipal governments, private and non-profit developers, and First Nations to build multi-family housing developments for middle-class households to rent or buy. This would be achieved through rapid permitting approvals, increased allowable density, and increased public financing for land acquisition and construction costs.

The provincial government will review the lands it owns to support the goals of generating more housing under the BC Builds initiative.

The affordability of such homes driven by BC Builds will be maintained by putting such projects under co-ops, community land trusts, and shared equity partnership models.

“Using tools like upzoning select parcels in participating partner municipalities, in combination with government’s favourable lending rates, and matched with expedited approvals – and for some projects public land – will result in significant savings directed to further reduce the costs of housing for the people living in those units,” reads his platform.

“These units will be accessible to BC residents only with eligibility determined by working with partnering municipalities to determine local priorities.”

It is not immediately clear whether BC Builds would fall under the umbrella of provincial crown corporation BC Housing.

While BC Housing is best known for its work in social and supportive housing for very low-income people and individuals experiencing homelessness, it already has programs such as HousingHub, which supports for-profit and non-profit developers to build middle-class housing that are either affordable rental units or below-market affordable ownership units. Due to its initial success and quick uptake, HousingHub’s funding was replenished with an additional $2 billion in Spring 2021.

Eby’s BC Builds proposal is just one component of his sweeping housing platform, which includes various other supply-generation measures through zoning and changes to the municipal development permit review process, and interventionist measures on demand, most notably a new flipping tax regime.

Eby is the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey. This past summer, he resigned from his cabinet roles of BC Attorney General and the Minister Responsible for Housing to run in the BC NDP’s leadership race.

BC NDP members are expected to select Eby as their new party leader later this fall, and effectively the province’s new Premier to replace John Horgan, who has decided to resign. Climate activist Anjali Appandurai is Eby’s only challenger.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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