David Eby proposes sweeping housing supply measures that override BC municipal powers

Sep 29 2022, 3:25 am

After hinting immense reforms to increase housing supply and control demand through more interventionist policies earlier this year, David Eby outlined today potential landmark housing strategies he will roll out if he is made the new party leader of the BC NDP, and effectively the next Premier of British Columbia.

Eby previously suggested he would strip some powers of the municipal government that control zoning, and there is now a clearer picture of what he plans to do.

As a new default for what can be built, his leadership campaign platform promises to allow single-family residential zoning to be replaced with up to three units on the same footprint within major urban centres. This form will be allowed as long as the structures are consistent with existing building setbacks and height requirements stipulated by the municipal government.

Also overriding municipal governments is the new policy to make secondary suites — such as basement units — legal in every region of the province.

New provincial permitting regulations for housing will be “one-stop” and simplified, and reforms to the municipal development permit process recently outlined by a provincial panel will be implemented urgently.

Another major proposed shift is removing the ability for strata councils to restrict units from being used as rentals.

As well, under recent provincial direction, municipal governments have been required to formulate their own “housing needs” plans that help determine their housing targets. Their established targets would now be used as the minimum standard for catalyzing housing supply. Municipal governments that are able to exceed their “housing needs” targets will receive additional provincial funding to help cover the cost of building community amenities, while cities that fail to reach targets will see provincial intervention to meet growth demands.

“We are in a housing crisis, and our laws should reflect that – where they’re preventing homes from being made available, or resulting in lengthy and unhelpful approvals processes, we need to change the game,” reads Eby’s party leadership platform.

Eby is also looking to further increase the provincial government’s direct financial support towards building affordable housing led by non-profit housing operators and First Nations. For instance, grants for non-profit housing operators would be doubled for their shovel-ready projects to quickly respond to homelessness.

To expedite a new “rental housing acquisition strategy,” Eby has proposed to provide $500 million in provincial funding to start the program, which will be used by non-profit housing operators to purchase affordable rental housing buildings listed for sale, and to protect renters from displacement.

As for market rental housing, a new law will establish a right of first refusal that discourages large international corporations from acquiring such properties to increase rents as a revenue-generating investment source.

Eby’s sweeping housing platform also includes various other supply-generation measures through the creation of the new BC Builds public housing development initiative, and new 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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