Housing Supply Panel Report

The bilateral Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability has released an interim “What We Heard” report following initial stakeholder consultations. The Panel is now accepting feedback on the report until January 15, 2021 and will deliver a final report to Canada and BC in the Spring of 2021.

The federal and provincial governments established the Expert Panel following an announcement in the 2019 Federal Budget, allocating $9 million over 2 years for consultations and modelling. While the primary focus of the Expert Panel was to examine housing supply, its scope also encompassed the identification and evaluation of measures that could be taken to deter unwanted demand including reducing speculative market behaviour and money laundering.
The interim report is structured around three areas focused on all orders of government:  governance; diversity of housing; and accelerating supply.

Governance – controls on the supply of housing:

Recommendations relating to the federal government include tying transit infrastructure funding with housing unit and density requirements, and GST exemptions for purpose-built rental. Provincial recommendations address the need for a “carrot and stick” approach to housing and municipalities and include:  mandating municipal housing targets; reducing the need for public hearings; and consistent requirements for development charges. While pointing towards opportunities for local governments to streamline development approvals, the report also acknowledges fiscal constraints of local governments and the need for additional revenue generation tools.

Diversity of housing for all income levels and tenures:

The report calls for diversity in tenure (balancing ownership and rental), housing type (ensuring a mix of units in size, form and function), and delivery mechanisms (granting a greater role to non-profits, co-operatives and others). Specific recommendations address the potential for federal tax reform to support rental housing, provincial fiscal supports to rental housing providers, and local government use of zoning and transportation planning as well as waiving of development fees.

Accelerating and adding certainty to the process for adding supply:

Federal policy responses identified include increased fiscal transfers to local governments to limit the need for development cost charges (DCCs), and promoting skilled workforce development. BC-focused recommendations include new revenue sources for local governments, and streamlining of development approvals processes. Local government specific recommendations include standardized DCCs and measures to expedite development approvals.

Overall, the report reflects a narrow view that is not entirely consistent with the original scope of the Panel. For example, it is silent on the issue of low interest rates, which have been widely acknowledged as a significant factor in driving demand for housing and increasing housing prices. The Panel briefly acknowledges the role of speculation and money laundering, but notes that a lack of data makes the impact of these pressures difficult to gauge. UBCM’s submission to the Panel reflected a broader, evidence-based approach, calling for:  additional supports for affordable housing; an ongoing emphasis on speculative demand; and enhanced data collection.

UBCM policy is nonetheless consistent with several recommendations identified in the Panel’s report, including calls for:  GST rebates and other supports for rental housing; new revenue sources for local governments; and modernization of development financing. UBCM will continue to work with the Province towards supporting evidence-based efforts to promote affordability that do not limit local government autonomy.

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