A new housing strategy from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) is calling upon all levels of government to take action to address the issue of housing affordability. The strategy supports the provincial goal of constructing 114,000 new units over ten years; actions to mitigate the impact of foreign and domestic speculation; and policies aimed at preventing homelessness.
A special committee drawn from local government, the academic community, not-for-profit sector and the housing industry (Backgrounder 1) developed the report, A Home for Everyone: A Housing Strategy for British Columbians. The strategy characterizes the current housing situation in British Columbia as a “crisis”, and states that all levels of government have failed to fully gauge the magnitude of the issue.
“For many British Columbians, there is an extreme disconnect between housing prices and income,” said Wendy Booth, UBCM President. “This gap is unprecedented and demonstrates the enormous impact of speculative demand on B.C. housing market. To reverse our current course of unaffordability, we need an evidence-based approach to manage demand through stronger taxation policy and better data collection.”
In addition to proposals aimed at demand management, the strategy’s 32 recommendations (Backgrounder 2) focus on diversifying housing supply through accelerated construction of rental housing, co-ops and other alternatives to home ownership and a policy focus on reducing the pathways into homelessness through improved supports for those dealing with mental health conditions and addictions.
“The factors that have created the current lack of affordability and levels of homelessness are complex, so our solutions need to be equally complex,” said Greg Moore, Mayor of Port Coquitlam. “Our aim through this strategy is to focus the current discussion of housing policy on effective actions that can be implemented now. The challenge is great, but with all levels of government working together we can turn the corner and ensure everyone has a home.”
The strategy also welcomes the current direction of both the federal and provincial governments on housing policy, and calls for all levels of government to work more closely to implement the actions UBCM has proposed.
“This report echoes what we’ve been hearing throughout our consultations and I look forward to working with the UBCM to find and implement solutions to address the housing crisis,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The scale and complexity of the problem means we cannot take a piecemeal approach — all levels of government need to work together on solutions. Our government’s initial steps include improving support for tenants and landlords, providing supportive homes for those most in need, creating more affordable homes, and cracking down on tax cheats. Budget 2018 will outline our next steps, including both supply and demand measures to improve housing affordability for British Columbians.”