Expert Panel on Supply and Affordability Final Report

The Canada-B.C. Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability has released its Final Report presenting 23 recommendations addressing 5 themes: the local government planning framework; reforming property development fees; expanding affordable housing supply; improving coordination among and within all orders of government; and ensuring equitable treatment of renters and homeowners.

The report was notably silent on measures that would address speculative demand, suggesting instead that all demand needs to be accommodated. This is despite a Terms of Reference for the Panel that referenced the identification and evaluation of measures to deter unwanted demand, reducing speculative market behaviour, and addressing the use of real estate for money laundering. 

Specific recommendations in the report include:

1)      Local government planning framework

The Panel makes far reaching recommendations in this area including statutory time limits on “all stages of the property development process”, binding minimum growth targets, proactive updating of zoning bylaws to reflect Official Community Plans, and conditionality of federal and provincial infrastructure funding on local policies. If implemented, several of these recommendations would significantly constrain local government autonomy in planning. 

2)      Reforming fees on property development

The Panel calls for a phasing out of Community Amenity Contributions (CACs), in parallel with an expansion of Development Cost Charges (DCCs). This is partly, but not entirely, consistent with UBCM policy including resolution 2019-SR2 that calls for a comprehensive review of existing funding mechanisms for financing growth-related infrastructure services, including CACs and DCCs, in part to create a consistent approach to land value capture and amenity charges that reduces the uncertainty associated with negotiated agreements. 

The Panel also notably calls for a full review of local government revenue sources and spending responsibilities that includes consideration of additional or enhanced funding sources for infrastructure and amenities that are more predictable and do not rely on rezoning or the development process. 

3)      Expanding the supply of community and affordable housing

Recommendations in this area parallel and generally align with one of the three priority areas addressed in UBCM’s housing report – increasing the supply of affordable housing. Specific recommendations include calls for the federal and provincial governments to create an acquisition fund to support non-profit housing organizations in acquiring currently affordable housing properties, and a greater long-term federal role in funding affordable housing. 

4)      Improving coordination among and within all orders of government

This section includes recommendations for a federal urban, rural and northern housing strategy, and expanded debt ceilings for federal and provincial programs providing long-term, low-cost financing supporting affordable housing development. The Panel also recommends that local governments offer density bonuses to affordable housing developers that receive federal and provincial construction and redevelopment funding. 

5)      Ensuring more equitable treatment of renters and homeowners

Recommendations call for a review of the impact of the capital gains tax exemption on principal residences, and potential tax savings measures to renters to help offset the favourable tax treatment of ownership. The Panel also calls for a phasing out of the provincial Home Owner Grant, with savings to be redirected to social housing and related commitments. Both the call for a review of the capital gains tax exemption and phasing out of the Home Owner Grant were quickly turned down by the respective federal and provincial ministers.

UBCM will continue to monitor responses to this report, particularly those that have significant implications for local government autonomy. More information on UBCM’s positions on the work of the Panel are detailed in UBCM’s submission.

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