The province is rolling out a new Homes for People plan that they hope will create more than 108,000 new houses, apartment units “open and under construction” by 2027-28.
Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced the plan near a Victoria-area hardware store on Monday (April 3).
“This plan will take us to the next level with unprecedented actions to tackle the challenges head-on, delivering even more homes for people, faster,” Eby said. He added that the plan builds on measures, which are already underway, when asked why British Columbians may have to wait months to see some of the more substantial pieces of the plan in place.
“We still need to do a lot more,” Eby said. “What you should see in this plan is that we are leaving no stone un-turned when it comes to addressing housing … we are taking a comprehensive approach to this challenge. We recognize that this is a crisis for people looking for a place to live.”
Broadly, the plan includes adding density in areas currently zoned single-residential and near transit, legalizing secondary suites coupled with financial incentives for home-owners who build such suites, expanding the existing speculation and vacancy tax to other areas and creating a tax designed to discourage the flipping of properties.
As well, the plan includes a focus on creating more First Nations, student and social housing.
It’s expected that more details on these specifics will come later.
The province plans to introduce legislation in the fall that would allow for small scale, multi-unit homes like duplexes, triplexes, and row houses in neighbourhoods currently zoned single-residential. While this proposal promises to create what experts call missing middle housing, plans presented Monday are incomplete.
The yet-to-be announced legislation would allow three, four and possibly more units, if near transit, on lots currently zoned single-residential. According to a technical briefing prior to the announcement, staff with the ministry of housing are still working on those details with the municipalities. While some municipalities are actively encouraging this type of housing, others are less keen, raising the question of whether the province would use its power to unilaterally rezone all lots zoned single-residential for missing middle housing.
Eby said the province is working with municipalities but he signaled the change would be province-wide. “At the provincial level, we are going to set these minimum standards, which is that the process for building the housing that we need, needs to be the same as building a single-family house … this is an urgent situation for British Columbians and we will take the action that is necessary to deliver for them.”
Equally unclear are plans to expand one existing tax — the speculation and vacancy tax — and create another — the so-called flipping tax.
The speculation and vacancy tax would expand to “additional areas” beyond Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria, parts of the Fraser Valley, Kelowna and West Kelowna and Nanaimo and Lantzville but staff with the finance ministry are still working on those details, just as they are still working on the details of the proposed flipping tax, including the question of whether it will be province-wide.
Eby did not identify those additional areas when asked about it, but spoke broadly of “areas where there are issues with vacant homes and where there is significant demand for housing.”
He also did not disclose any additional details about the proposed flipping tax, but signaled that it could be punitive. “If you are holding a home right now that you intent to flip, if you are thinking about buying a home for the purpose of flipping, the message today is that this tax is coming,” Eby said. “It will cost you money.”
Legalizing secondary suites
Other, perhaps less substantial policy initiatives come with more details. They include plans for the province-wide legalization of secondary suites said to come in the fall and incentives for their creation through a pilot project first promised in the last provincial budget.
The province will subsidize the renovation costs of secondary suites by 50 per cent to a maximum of $40,000 through a forgivable loan if homeowner meet all conditions, including renting their units for below market rates for at least five years. The province promises that the project would be open to at least 3,000 homeowners for the first three years.
Other measures touted by the government include direct spending to create 6,000 more affordable homes, 1,750 more on- and off- reserve homes for First Nations by doubling the Indigenous Housing Fund and 4,000 more on-campus student homes on top of the almost 8,000 currently open or underway.
Eby and Kahlon also pledge to create tougher enforcement of rules around short-term rentals and ending discriminatory age and rental restrictions in stratas after some families found themselves frozen out rentals.
The province plans to launch BC Builds, a program advised by former City of Victoria mayor Lisa Help and designed to deliver homes for middle-income people, in the fall and the public will learn the identity of the chosen municipalities “soon” according to Monday’s technical briefing.
Overall, the plan announced Monday builds but also expands on the 10-year, $7-billion Homes for BC plan announced in 2018.
It promised to deliver 114,000 new homes in partnership over ten years. So far, it has created 74,688 units.
Of the total units, some 42,431 are open with 17,484 under active construction. Another 14,753 are in planning phase.
Monday’s announcement is part of a government’s promise to invest $12 billion over the next 10 years to “deliver more homes for people, faster” and officials promise that the government will not only meet its earlier goals, but exceed them.