BC to create 1st minister to focus solely on housing crisis, says premier

The BC government has announced it will appoint a minister focused solely on delivering housing to British Columbians.

Premier David Eby made the announcement Tuesday at the Sheraton Wall Center in Vancouver, where government representatives and stakeholders have gathered for the 2022 Housing Central Conference this week.

Eby said it is the first time in history the province will have a dedicated minister of housing who does not have other portfolios on their plate. He called the appointment “vital.”

Housing is generally seen as a municipal responsibility. A ministry responsible for it was created by NDP Premier Dave Barrett in the 1970s. After his premiership, housing ceased to be a standalone ministry.

BC Premier David Eby addresses the 2022 Housing Central Conference on Nov. 22, 2022. (Submitted by BC Non-Profit Housing Association)

Historically, housing issues have been a small part of larger ministerial responsibilities with no consistency as to which ministry shares the housing portfolio. The current minister responsible for housing, Murray Rankin, is also the minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The news comes in the wake of two announcements Eby made Monday to try to increase housing stock in the province.

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David Eby talks about working with cities to improve housing supply.

On Monday, Eby and Rankin introduced new laws to remove discriminatory age and rental restrictions in stratas and to create a new working relationship between the provincial and municipal governments to set local housing targets.

“We can’t leave any housing on the table,” said Eby Tuesday, referring to his prior announcements.

The new minister will be named when Eby announces his cabinet on Dec. 7.

Opposition demanding audit

Eby says BC is in the midst of a housing crisis, and the province needs to increase the supply of homes to meet growing demand.

During his speech Tuesday, he spoke of his time prior to politics when he worked as a lawyer for Pivot Legal on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, advocating for housing for low-income residents.

Eby, prior to taking the leadership reins of his party, also oversaw the housing ministry in addition to holding the position of attorney general from 2017 to this year.

Now, the opposition is calling for independent audits of two social housing providers as Eby marks his first days in office outlining plans to tackle the housing crisis.

Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon says Eby must launch independent reviews at BC Housing and Atira Women’s Resources Society after alleging financial mismanagement at the society based on leaked reports from accounting firm BDO.

BC Housing is a Crown corporation that develops, manages and administers subsidized housing in the province, while Atira is a not-for-profit housing provider.

Falcon’s demands for audits came just hours before Eby was scheduled to speak at the Vancouver housing conference.

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