British Columbia Premier David Eby has kicked off his first full week as leader by announcing new measures to fix what has become an old problem in the province — a lack of homes for both existing and expected residents.
The former housing minister and newly minted leader of the province’s New Democratic Party said it was one of the issues he planned to tackle just moments after he was sworn in as premier on Friday.
Eby, who said population growth has never been higher in BC, laid out his initial plans to tackle the housing crisis during a Monday morning press conference alongside Murray Rankin, the attorney general and minister responsible for housing.
“People are coming to this province in record numbers…and our housing supply is not keeping up,” said Eby.
WATCH| BC premier explains provincial role in setting municipal housing targets:
His plans include ending rental restrictions and forcing local governments to meet housing growth targets with new legislation.
Housing Supply Act
The proposed Housing Supply Act is designed to prioritize housing construction in municipalities with the greatest need through better collaboration between the provincial and local governments.
This, according to the NDP, will be done by building on legislation already in place that requires municipalities and regional governments to provide housing needs reports to the province by April 2022 and every five years moving forward.
The plan is to have those reports reviewed by the provincial housing ministry, which will determine if a housing target should be set for a particular municipality and then work with local government leaders to set that target number.
“Delivering housing is a key role for municipalities and they need support from the province to achieve the numbers we need,” said Eby.
According to a government official, it is expected that eight to 10 municipalities will be initially identified and, once the target is set, it is up to the municipality to use tools available to them, such as zoning powers, to get that housing built.
If local governments fail to meet the target, the ministry has compliance and enforcement options.
These include appointing an adviser to review the situation, issuing a directive that local governments must act on, or, as a last resort, issue an order in council.
Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria, praised the act and urged other local leaders to embrace it.
“We must meet those expectations because they are the expectations of our residents and our residents to be,” she said.
If passed, the housing supply act is expected to be put into action in mid-2023.
Reduced strata restrictions
Proposed legislative changes would also remove age limits in all condominium properties covered by the Strata Property Act, although 55-plus buildings would remain to preserve seniors’ communities.
A news release from the province says some buildings restrict couples who plan on starting families by having 19-plus age requirements, meaning couples have to move when they are expecting a child.
“The last thing you need to think about when you’re preparing to welcome a newborn is finding a new place to live,” said Sarah Arnold, an expectant mother and condo owner in Victoria, in a statement.
According to the provincial government, there are approximately 2,900 empty condos that cannot be rented right now because of strata rules.
If approved, changes to the Strata Property Act will take effect immediately. The province says by laws restricting short-term rentals, such as AirBnBs, will still be allowed.
Most unaffordable housing in Canada
According to Statistics Canada data published in September, BC is leading the country when it comes to affordable housing.
The data gathered from the 2021 census said BC ranks as the most unaffordable province for housing in Canada, due largely to the number of people paying high rents to live in downtown Vancouver.
Eby said on Friday that he planned to ‘hit the ground running’ and announced two one-time payments for residents, to help mitigate inflation pressures for residents.
On Sunday, he announced a new public safety plan to increase enforcement on repeat violent offenders and expand mental-health crisis response teams.