Analysis: MLA David Eby Housing Plan

Publishing Date

MLA David Eby has released a housing plan that if implemented could lead to significant policy and legislative changes. Although the plan is not official government policy and details on each proposal are limited, UBCM has conducted a preliminary review for member reference, given the potential near-term implications for local governments.
The complex questions that relate to housing attainability are a matter of concern for every community in BC. Local governments recognize that finding effective solutions to the current crisis requires focused collaboration by all orders of government. The scope of the proposals that MLA Eby has advanced are broad and warrant local government attention.

Elements aligned with member-supported policy

The following elements broadly align with UBCM policy which emphasizes a need for investment in “right supply” (rental, co-op and other forms of attainable and affordable housing), and articulates that housing should be used primarily as housing rather than as an investment:

  • Increased funding for housing and homelessness, including $500 million in capital funding for a rental housing acquisition strategy enabling non-profits to purchase affordable rental buildings. This is consistent with longstanding UBCM policy advocating for greater provincial funding for housing and a pillar of UBCM’s housing strategy: increasing the supply of rental housing.
  • Additional protections for existing rental housing. UBCM does not have policy on the specific proposal to establish a right of first refusal for the acquisition of rental housing by large international corporations, but has extensive policy addressing renovictions and limiting market distortions that increase housing costs.
  • Increased supports and services for people living in supportive housing and continued build out of complex care housing, both of which have been an advocacy focus for UBCM.
  • A proposal to improve information sharing by short-term rental companies with local governments. UBCM has advocated for better data sharing as part of a broader approach to provincial platform regulation and accountability.
  • A proposed flipping tax on residential property that would go down to zero the longer the property is held. This is consistent with a proposal brought forward in UBCM’s housing strategy and again in the report of the Special Committee on Local Government Finance, to penalize rapid speculative resale.
  • Similarly, proposals to deal with “frauds, cheats and criminals” broadly align with UBCM’s housing strategy proposals to limit speculative demand pressures on housing supply.

All of the above elements will require further analysis as implementation details emerge.

Elements requiring further consultation

Many other elements of the plan have the potential to create large amounts of affordable housing supply but would also require further consultation with UBCM and local governments to address implications for local democracy and accountability and also to minimize potential unintended consequences. These elements include:

  • A proposed ‘BC Builds’ initiative would represent “a substantial expansion of the government’s role in facilitating the delivery of middle-class homes”. This would see the province work with First Nation and local governments, and private and non-profit partners, in both urban and rural areas to offer rapid approvals, increased density, land and construction financing. As described, this approach would occur in ‘participating partner municipalities’. It would also incorporate a review of all Provincial assets/lands to build affordable housing. While broadly consistent with UBCM’s emphasis on collaboration across orders of government and the use of the full array of tools to support housing, details are limited and careful consideration would be needed to ensure the effective delivery of housing that responds to local needs.
  • A proposal for preapproving builders in major urban centers to replace existing single-family homes with three units on the same footprint, and a proposal to make secondary suites legal in every region of the province. Such initiatives inherently involve a complex series of trade-offs and if poorly designed could lead to wide-ranging unintended consequences. Considerable engagement with local governments would be necessary to ensure that densification is done in a way that sees the development of complete, resilient communities with necessary infrastructure while minimizing speculative land lift.
  • Reforms to municipal approvals processes addressed through the Development Approvals Process Review that UBCM and local governments have been engaged in over the past several years. UBCM has welcomed funding provided via the 2021 Local Government Development Approvals funding stream and would also note that the Federal Government has announced a $4 billion ‘Housing Accelerator Fund’ that is expected to be rolled out in the coming months that could further support streamlined approvals.

UBCM will advocate for early and adequate opportunities for local government engagement on any of these proposals which move forward.

The plan also proposes two changes for stratas that neither directly address local governments nor are addressed in UBCM policy: the removal of strata restrictions on rentals, and the abolishment of 19+ age restrictions on stratas.

Elements that are matters of concern

Finally, UBCM would have significant concerns with “legislation on housing targets and forcing municipalities to act” that MLA Eby has indicated will likely be coming forward this fall. While details of this legislation are not detailed in MLA Eby’s housing plan, the plan indicates that:
Municipalities’ ‘housing needs plans’ will be used to set minimum standards for housing delivery, with municipalities exceeding targets rewarded with additional community amenity support and those failing to hit targets supported through provincial intervention to meet growth demands.
No details are provided on the proposed housing needs plans and how these would be tied to minimum standards for housing delivery. UBCM has advocated for a comprehensive review of funding mechanisms for financing growth-related infrastructure services including Development Cost Charges and Amenity Agreements that would among other things better capture growth-related capital costs that are increasingly strained as a result of pressure for local governments to incentivize attainable housing. It is possible that the proposal to tie community amenity supports to housing delivery would address some of this need, however the threat of provincial intervention for failing to meet targets raises many questions such as: How will housing targets be defined? How would they reflect the long (often multi-year) time-frame for delivery of housing following local government approvals? Will the Province expedite their own approvals which can add significantly to approval timelines? And how would they relate to current regional planning and growth management plans, including efforts to limit urban sprawl and address climate adaptation and mitigation?

The NDP leadership election is expected to conclude with the announcement of a new leader on December 3. UBCM looks forward to engaging with membership following local government elections and the NDP leadership election, or at which time government direction to implement specific elements of this plan becomes clear.

In the interim, members may contact Josh van Loon, Senior Policy Analyst with questions or comments.