Reactions to the government’s Homes for People plan range from “ambitious” to insufficient to deceptive.
Premier David Eby and Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon announced the plan Monday (April 3) in Victoria. Broadly, the plan includes adding density in areas currently zoned single-residential and near transit, legalizing secondary suites coupled with financial incentives for home-owners who build such suites, expanding the existing speculation and vacancy tax to other areas and creating a tax designed to discourage the flipping of properties.
Eby said during a news conference that government must “leave no stone unturned” in responding to the urgent need for housing, which he said reflected 16 years of inaction by previous governments mixed with record population growth.
Union of British Columbia Municipalities President Jen Ford said the “ambitious” plan follows in the path of previous announcements.
“I think we have heard a lot of different aspects to address the continuum of housing supply and use and we certainly on behalf of 188 local governments are encouraged to continue to engage with the plan and understand what impacts that has on different communities and ultimately how it impacts the people who live in and contribute to our communities and are part of our communities.”
One of the central planks of the plan calls for the increasing density of what today are lots zoned for single-residential homes.
Three, four and possibly more units, if near transit, will become permissible under legislation promised for the fall.
“This will be a province-wide policy,” Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said at the time.
Ford said many municipalities would like to increase the supply of affordable housing and the proposal is taking action toward that goal. But she also called for “substantive consultation” from the provincial government.
“We have been asking the government for provincial leadership on a wide range of housing issues and this is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” she said, adding it is difficult to comment on the announcement without seeing the proposed regulations.
But she predicts that the proposed change will be a subject of discussing during an up-coming housing summit.
“(If) there are questions around jurisdiction changes, we are certainly alive to how that it impacts our members.”
Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto, who attended Monday’s announcement, welcomed the plan, adding that the city is actually pursuing more ambitious targets when it comes to creating “missing middle” housing.
BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen said the plan holds “a lot of positive” promises.
“At face value, the pilot financial incentive program for secondary suites, the flipping tax, and the promise of better regulation for short-term rentals, are policies that we need to explore,” he said. “However, the BC NDP have not provided enough detail for us to evaluate the impact of these policies.”
These proposals need more clarity, he added.
BC Liberals offered the same critique around the lack of details and went further in accusing New Democrats of abandoning previous promises and fudging numbers.
Karin Kirkpatrick, MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano and shadow minister for housing, said Eby’s plan is nothing more than an admission that his government is incapable of delivering the NDP’s original promise of 114,000 homes by 2028.
“British Columbians know that housing affordability continues to worsen on his government’s watch and they are tired of waiting for action,” she said. “Unfortunately, this supposedly new housing plan, which contains mostly previously announced or delayed commitments and carefully crafted messaging to hide the NDP’s glacial progress, is anything but refreshing.”
Five years into their 10-year-plan, New Democrats have built only 15,783 new homes, she added, or only 13.8 per cent of their promise.
Figures from the government peg the number higher, in part by counting previously empty homes that are now in use. According to a technical briefing, the plan announced in 2018 created 74,688 units.
Of the total units, some 42,431 are open with 17,484 under active construction. Another 14,753 are in planning phase.