Progress on Housing

Over the past year, the provincial and federal governments have begun to implement policy agendas that address housing needs. Recent months in particular have seen aggressive action by the province on housing, coupled with the introduction of a National Housing Strategy. This article presents an overview of how recent initiatives align with UBCM policy.

Housing continues to be a crisis in communities across British Columbia. As noted in the provincial report What We Heard About Poverty in B.C., “Affordable housing was overwhelmingly the top issue that came up during the consultation. It was named the most pressing issue for people living in poverty by people and organizations throughout British Columbia. Businesses, local governments, Indigenous leaders, and people living in cities big and small all spoke up about how the housing crisis has contributed to poverty.” Impacts of the crisis vary from community to community, but include difficulties for employers finding and retaining employees, local government challenges in addressing tent cities, and hardship for renters, seniors and youth.

Recognizing the importance of this issue for our members, UBCM continues to be an active advocate on housing. Recent advocacy efforts have been focused on the agenda for action set out in our 2018 housing strategy. Since the release of the strategy, UBCM has continued to provide local government perspectives on a variety of issues, through regular communication with the province on the implementation of their 30-point plan, Homes for B.C.   

The province’s plan aligns closely with key elements of UBCM’s housing strategy, with recent actions that include:

  • a commitment to the construction of 30,000 new affordable units over the next three years,
  • new rental-zoning powers that received royal assent this spring,
  • several measures brought into effect by the 2018 budget aimed at the management of speculative demand including a higher foreign buyer’s tax with an expanded scope of application,
  • construction of temporary modular homes in communities across the province to house the homeless,
  • the development of a poverty reduction strategy, and
  • the introduction of a HousingHub to foster engagement amongst all orders of government, non-profits and the private sector on creative housing solutions.

Differences between the provincial plan and UBCM recommendations include:

  • The provincial plan does not provide for a taxation measure that would penalize rapid speculative re-sales, opting instead for the speculation tax. The province has however moved aggressively on several other measures to address speculation consistent with UBCM policy, including new reporting requirements for developers to limit tax evasion by those who resell condos before they have been built.
  • On short-term rentals, the plan while providing for taxation of Airbnb units, does not provide additional supports for regulation to address local government challenges with enforcement.

UBCM will continue to advocate on behalf of members on this important issue, recognizing that the current housing crisis has built over several decades, and may take a comparably long time frame to meaningfully address. This year’s Convention will feature several sessions on housing, including a clinic on HousingHub, a forum on homelessness, a workshop on short-term rentals, and a Monday morning policy session.

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