Homes for BC

As part of its February 20 budget, the Provincial Government released a comprehensive 30-point plan for housing affordability that substantially addresses numerous recommendations within UBCM’s housing reportA Home For Everyone: A Housing Strategy for British Columbians. Overall, the province’s plan provides for significant new investments, policy and legislative changes to support affordability in BC.

UBCM’s report was structured around four policy shifts to increase the supply of affordable rental housing, address foreign and domestic speculation, tackle homelessness, and promote collaboration amongst all levels of government. Below we examine the Province’s 30-point plan within this framework:

Rental Housing

On rental housing, UBCM recommendations address increased investment in affordable rental housing, support the provincial commitment to create 114,000 units of affordable housing, emphasize the importance of retaining and renewal of existing subsidized housing including increased investment in energy efficiency upgrades, and call for the authority to create zoning for affordable rental housing.

The provincial plan substantially addresses many of UBCM’s recommendations, including through a commitment to enable rental zoning, and $1.6 billion over the next three years to finance the construction of affordable housing and critical maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades to existing social housing. Over the longer term, the province’s plan retains the commitment to build 114,000 units over 10 years, although reaching this target is premised on approximately 80,000 units being generated by the private sector. The budget also provides for provincial mirroring of property tax exemptions under municipal revitalization agreements for qualifying purpose-built rental housing, and commits $5 million over three years to help fund housing needs assessments for local governments.

Demand Management

On demand management, UBCM recommendations support:

  • revisions to the Foreign Buyer’s tax to revisit the tax rate, potentially expand its geographic application, and remove condo pre-sale exemptions,
  • requirements for declaration of beneficial ownership,
  • consideration of a new tax to penalize rapid speculative re-sales,
  • making the property transfer tax more progressive, and
  • investigation of options for regulating short-term rentals.

The provincial plan increased the foreign buyer’s tax rate from 15 to 20% and extended it to the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo and Central Okanagan Regional Districts. The property transfer tax rate on homes assessed over $3 million has been increased from 3 to 5%; and the province is taking steps to build complete information on beneficial ownership.  While not immediately removing condo pre-sale exemptions from the foreign buyer’s tax, the province has committed to building a database for pre-sale condo assignments, and plans to strengthen provincial auditing and enforcement powers to limit tax evasion.

Differences between the provincial plan and UBCM recommendations on demand management include:

  • The plan does not provide for a taxation measure that would penalize rapid speculative re-sales. The plan also institutes a new speculation tax that targets both foreign and domestic speculators who do not pay income tax in BC, applying to Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Capital and Nanaimo regional districts, and Kelowna and West Kelowna. The tax will be 0.5% of taxable assessed value for 2018 and 2% thereafter. It will exempt most principal residences, qualifying long-term rental properties and special cases. The province will administer the tax outside of the normal property tax system and property tax cycle.
  • On short-term rentals, the plan provides for taxation of Airbnb units, which moves towards greater tax fairness. It does not however provide additional supports for regulating short-term rentals to address the challenges that local governments face with regards to factors such as enforcement costs and regulatory uncertainty.


UBCM’s recommendations on homelessness were focused on a holistic view, aimed at prevention and an integrated case-management approach for effectively addressing individual needs. Although the provincial budget makes relatively few commitments with regards to homelessness – primarily funding for 2,500 supportive housing units – it is anticipated that other planned initiatives such as the poverty reduction strategy will more substantially address UBCM recommendations.

All Government Approach

Central to UBCM’s housing strategy is an approach featuring all orders of government working together collaboratively. The provincial plan addresses this both through the adoption of many of UBCM’s recommendations as detailed above, and through the creation of:

  • ‘HousingHub’, to engage all orders of government, non-profits and the private sector in creating housing solutions. This will be funded by winding down the BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership program.
  • A multi-agency working group on tax evasion, money laundering and housing.

UBCM will continue to engage with the Provincial and Federal Governments on housing, building on the momentum of the provincial plan and the National Housing Strategy.

Please contact Josh van Loon, Senior Policy Analyst, at (604) 270-8226 ext. 113 with any questions about UBCM’s housing report.

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