Budget Features Community Safety, Affordable Housing Initiatives

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled Budget 2016, announcing a budget surplus of $377 million in 2015/16.  The budget contained a range of measures impacting community safety, housing, economic development and health within communities.

Additional surplus forecasts were forecasted for all three years of the fiscal plan - $264 million in 2016/17, $287 in 2017/18, and $373 in 2018/19.   The budget relies on continued economic growth, with forecasts of 2.4% in 2016, 2.3% in 2017, and 2.3% in 2018.

Under the current fiscal plan, it is anticipated that the Government will have eliminated its operating debt by 2020. The last time B.C. was without an operating debt was 1975.

Budget details of interest to local governments include:

Housing

  • $355 million over five years to support the construction of 2000 affordable housing units.
  • Budget 2016 will increase the property transfer tax exemption on new homes up to $750,000 in value.
  • Increase the property transfer tax rate to 3% from 2% on the portion of fair market value over $2 million.
  • The Homeowner Grant threshold has increased from $1.1 million to $1.2 million for the 2016 tax year.
  • Initiate data collection on owners to provide information on the volume of foreign investment in BC.   Starting in the summer, individuals who purchase property will need to disclose if they are Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and if neither, their home country.

Local Government Role in Housing Affordability

  • In line with the 2016 Throne Speech, Budget 2016 references working with local governments to reduce “hidden costs” in home purchases, and to make those costs clear and transparent for homebuyers. 
  • Budget 2016 notes “Government is exploring ways to make the components of the cost of new housing more transparent to homebuyers, such as local government costs and fees.  The Province urges municipal leaders, and regional directors, who are responsible for planning, zoning and development regulation, to use the broader tools at their disposal to support the Province’s efforts and further the creation of affordable housing.”
  • In the Budget Speech, the Honourable Mike de Jong noted “while many are urging the provincial government to step in legislatively to address these issues, we see this as a last resort.”
  • The Minister of Finance acknowledged a desire for the Province to meet with UBCM in the coming weeks to discuss references to local governments and housing affordability contained in the Budget Speech.

Community Safety

  • $5 million for the Guns and Gangs Strategy.
  • $85 million to establish a new organization – the Forest Enhancement Society of BC – that will work towards wildfire prevention and mitigation through forest fuel management, reforestation and habitat restoration primarily on crown land outside of the interface. UBCM will seek details on the design of  this new program and share this information with local governments.
  •  $10 million for the strategic wildfire Prevention Initiative for Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Fire Smart Planning Activities and Fuel Management Projects.
  • $55 million in emergency preparedness and prevention initiatives, such as upgrades to dikes and flood protection.
  • $10 million for training, administrative support and equipment renewals for volunteer ground search and rescue organizations.
  • $128 million over three years for the Okanagan Correctional Facility.  

Economic Development

  • $75 million over three years to the Rural Dividend Fund to help communities with populations under 25,000 to diversity their economies.
  • $8 million over three years for youth trades training as part of the Skills for Jobs Blueprint.
  • $5 million to market BC wood to India.
  • Additional investments in the Rural Connectivity Initiative.
  • An additional $3 million for the Agricultural Land Commission.
  • Creation of a commission to consider ways to modernize the existing tax structure, including considering ways to modernize the existing sales tax.  The scope of any terms of reference for the commission will exclude any consideration of a harmonized sales tax.

Local Government Finance

  • Property tax relief for tourist accommodation providers in rural areas.  Effective for the 2017 tax year, the maximum reduction in assessed value is increased to $500,000 from $150,000 and the assessed phase-out of the benefit begins is increased to $4 million from $2 million.

Transportation

  • $7 million to expand service in BC Transit’s operating area outside of Metro Vancouver.

Environment

  • $13 million for the Innovative Clean Energy Fund, with the majority for the funding going towards the Clean Energy Vehicle Program.

First Nations

  • $19 million over three years to improve resource permitting and support work with First Nations to improve consultation.

Social Development and Public Health

  • $250 million over the next three years to the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation for individuals and families in need, addressing caseload pressure for temporary income assistance, disability assistance and related supplementary benefits.
  • $36 million over three years to Community Living BC to support services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families, and to address continued caseload growth and demand for services.
  • Effective January 1, 2017:
    • The Government will exempt children from Medical Services Plan premiums;
    • 335,000 people will pay reduced premiums; and
    • An additional 45,000 people will no longer pay MSP premiums. 

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