On April 3, 2023, BC Premier David Eby released the government’s new “Homes for People” plan for housing, promising $4 billon in investment over the next 3 years. Over the last week, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a rather robust plan that actually has some smart principles and tangible actions that should have mostly positive outcomes.
Communities such as the Langleys, Burnaby, and Surrey have pulled their weight in new building permits numbers over the past decade, but many others have not. The province plans to “work with municipalities” (or step in) to streamline densification, or perhaps make new development more equitably distributed throughout the province. Based on 2022 building permits and 2021-2022 population estimates, I came up with the following ratios to represent how a municipality is pulling its weight relative to the rest of the province. I factored that the best way to do this was to compare how many new development permits are issued relative to the current population. Below is the new development permit : current population ratio for select cities and regions across the province:
Langford 1:28Coquitlam 1:35Burnaby 1:39New Westminster 1:52Langley Township 1:56Langley City 1:58METRO VANCOUVER AVG: 1:79City of Vancouver 1:79Penticton 1:81Nanaimo 1:82Victoria 1:85BC AVERAGE 1:102VANCOUVER ISLAND AVG 1:102Kelowna 1:103Surrey 1:112Kamloops 1:115Port Coquitlam 1:120White Rock 1:130Delta 1:151Richmond 1:154Chilliwack 1: 159FRASER VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT AVERAGE: 1:166Maple Ridge 1:237North Vancouvers 1:242Abbotsford 1:273Port Moody 1:321West Vancouver 1:436Saanich 1:735Pitt Meadows 1:1818
The plan does focus more on the “missing middle” such as townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes. Neighbourhoods like Willoughby in Langley or Clayton in Surrey have become use seeing many townhomes being built, but they are still a relative rarity in the region. Just to put this in perspective, the entire City of Vancouver (pop. 630,000) had just 145 townhome sales between January and March this year. Meanwhile, my neighbourhood of Willoughby (pop. 40,000) had 115 townhome sales in that same time. While this does not indicate how many homes are being built, it does show how few and far between a sale of that housing type is west of the Fraser Valley.
It does sound as though provincial legislation will override municipal zoning bylaws to allow duplexes, triplexes & rowhomes on single family lots. However, details are so far uncertain. Yet it is the details that likely matter most for their affect on the typical homeowner.
One of the biggest generational complaints I hear is that the lack of flexibility with housing in our region means that empty nesters and seniors end up living in homes that are too big for them. Families that desire living together in an equitable way, can’t. Even when BC decided to allow for larger and more flexible accessory dwelling units (ADUs), municipalities such as the Township of Langley quickly moved to quashed the benefit by restricting the size again and rejecting ADUs in strata units, which essentially maintained the status quo. Combined with policies such as restricting tandem garages and maintaining higher than average parking per residence minimum, regardless of the market demand, only continues to increase the cost of homes.
Based on early research from similar programs in New Zealand, Oregan and other regions, it is unlikely that this policy, by itself, will have any significant impact on housing permit numbers or housing prices. However, it is one tool that the province can use to incrementally prod some communities along in providing more housing to British Columbians.
RENTER TAX CREDIT
The plan also indicated that there will be help for renters in the form up a tax credit up to $400, based on income. These sort of tax credits have rarely been shown to alleviate housing costs in any substantial way. Everyone, of course, likes to pay less taxes.
LOANS FOR SUITES
In order to quickly increase the rental stock, homeowners will be offered “forgivable” loans to build secondary suites to rent. This is a 3 year pilot project commencing in 2024 that will loan 50% of the cost of a secondary suite renovation up to $40,000. Here’s where it gets more innovative: if homeowners follow certain conditions, such as renting their unit below market rates for 5 years, the loan can be forgiven. This can be seen as a significant win-win for homeowners and renters alike.
ANOTHER ANTI-FLIPPING LAW
The plan also targets a scapegoat that takes common blame for high housing prices: speculators. The Federal government has already implemented an anti-flipping tax this year that treats any profit made in the purchase and sale of the same property in one year will be taxed as a business. While some have considered this announcement in BC to be redundant, I believe it is intended to be a complementary punitive measure.
MORE HEADLINES FROM THE BC “HOMES FOR PEOPLE” HOUSING PLAN
- SPEED UP PERMITTING AND APPROVALS TO GET HOMES BUILT FASTER
- BECOME NORTH AMERICAN LEADER IN DIGITAL PERMITTING AND CONSTRUCTION
- DELIVER MORE HOMES AND SERVICES NEAR TRANSIT
- LAUNCH BC BUILDS – A NEW PROGRAM DEDICATED TO DELIVERING MORE MIDDLEINCOME HOMES
- EXPAND B.C.’S CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCE AND SPUR INNOVATION
- EXPLORE NEW WAYS TO GET MORE RENTALS BUILT
- BUILD MORE HOMES WITH MASS TIMBER
- THOUSANDS MORE SOCIAL HOUSING UNITS
- DELIVER 4,000 ADDITIONAL ON-CAMPUS ROOMS FOR POST-SECONDARY STUDENTS
- PROTECT AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOMES THROUGH $500 MILLION FUND
- CREATE MORE HOUSING THROUGH PARTNERSHIPS WITH INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
- REVITALIZE CO-OP HOUSING
- MORE HOMES TO SUPPORT PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS
- NEW ACTIONS TO CLOSE ENCAMPMENTS
- PARTNER TO REDEVELOP AND REPLACE SINGLE-ROOM OCCUPANCY HOUSING IN DTES
- REVITALIZE AND EXPAND AGING BC HOUSING PROPERTIES
- MORE RENT BANK SUPPORT TO HELP TENANTS IN CRISIS KEEP THEIR HOMES
- STRICTER ENFORCEMENT ON SHORT-TERM RENTALS
- SOLVE RENTER/LANDLORD DISPUTES FASTER AND GET TOUGHER ON BAD-FAITH EVICTIONS
- TURN MORE EMPTY UNITS INTO HOMES BY EXPANDING THE SPECULATION AND VACANCY TAX TO ADDITIONAL AREAS
- CRACK DOWN ON CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN REAL ESTATE
- OFFER MORE PROTECTIONS FOR RENTERS DISPLACED BY REDEVELOPMENT
Obviously with this many idea, some of which are more feasible and concrete than others, I could write all day. However, I would love to hear from you and what your thoughts are on the plan. Also, if you have any questions about the topics I wrote about or others that I skipped, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am non-partisan in my opinions and always do my best to stick with a well researched interpretation of hard data.