199-unit rental building in Duncan coming as part of BC Builds: Eby

199-unit rental building in Duncan coming as part of BC Builds: Eby
B.C. Government handout image
An architect rendering of the building announced for 222 Cowichan Way.

A 199-unit rental building in Duncan is one of the first announced to be built as part of the new BC Builds program.

BC Builds aims to construct rental buildings on public land across the province to provide housing that middle-income people can afford.

“Anyone looking for a place to live knows how hard it is – even if you make a decent salary there are not enough rental homes people can afford,” said Premier David Eby.

“The private sector alone has not been able to deliver the homes middle-class people in B.C. need. That’s why we’re taking action through BC Builds to deliver lower-cost middle-income homes, faster, so the people who keep our communities working – like teachers, nurses, and construction workers – can find homes they can afford in the communities they love.”

The Duncan project will be built on land owned by the Cowichan Tribes at 222 Cowichan Way. It will be a four-to-six-storey wood-frame building.

This is one of the three projects the province announced, the other two being in North Vancouver and Gibsons.

At least 20 per cent of the units have to be rented at 20 per cent below market rates.

READ PREVIOUS FROM 2022: Rob Shaw: NDP leadership candidate David Eby’s housing plan is enormous in scope, ambition

Additionally, the province says all projects built under BC Builds are not to exceed market rent for the community in which they are built. All households must be income tested at move-in with rent not exceeding more than 30 per cent of their income.

BC Builds projects will use government borrowing rates using lower-cost financing and grants to reduce construction costs with the goal of building projects within 12 to 18 months.

“Too many middle-class families are struggling to find a place to live that they can afford, and that’s holding people and our economy back,” said Ravi Kahlon, minister of housing.

“BC Builds is designed to meet this moment, overcome challenging market conditions, and deliver lower-cost rental homes for the people who deliver the services we rely on, and drive our economy forward – so they can build good lives here and thrive.”

The New Democrat government’s almost $3 billion BC Builds program will target property owned by governments, communities and non-profits, and provide low-cost financing to fast-track affordable rental developments on underutilized lands across B.C., Eby said.

Eby said the private market hasn’t been able to ease B.C.’s ongoing housing crisis, resulting in the government making affordable housing one of its top priorities.

“We know that the middle class is struggling in our province,” he said at a news conference. “The people who make our province go are struggling to find a decent place to live.”

Teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, civic employees and construction workers have difficulties finding affordable places to live, said Eby.

In North Vancouver, where the premier made the BC Builds announcement, he said rents are as high as $5,000 a month for a three-bedroom apartment.

“We know that the private sector has not been able to deliver the middle-income housing that we need,” he said. “We are attacking the housing issue head on.”

The BC Builds strategy stands in contrast to the “predictable” outcomes when governments got out of the housing market, “speculators ran wild” and prices and rents rose, Eby said.

Opposition BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said NDP news conferences and photo opportunities are not what’s needed to build homes.

“British Columbians are looking for real action and results on housing,” Falcon, a former property developer, posted on social media.

The Green Party said the program offers no immediate help to tens of thousands of people in B.C. struggling daily to make ends meet.

“Premier Eby appears to be out of touch with the lived reality of renters across the province, who need support now, not in 12 to 18 months, to avoid slipping into homelessness,” said Green MLA Adam Olsen in a statement.

Detailed estimates of the numbers of rental units the government expects the program to develop were not provided, but 20 sites with the potential to provide up to 4,000 rental units have already been identified, said Eby.

“The partners that were coming forward were really First Nations partners, local government partners, like the City of North Vancouver and groups like school boards and health authorities,” Eby said.

The groups and entities with the property see the BC Builds program as an investment in the futures of their people and organizations, he said.

“They see a benefit for themselves or their community coming from this kind of housing,” said Eby. “It’s not a profit-driven approach. It’s quite separate from the traditional real estate market. It’s meeting a need that’s out there.”

The BC Builds program is part of the NDP government’s housing strategy, which now totals $19 billion and includes last year’s initiatives to restrict short-term rentals, relax zoning regulations to permit more multi-residential housing developments and build more homes along transit corridors, Eby said.

The ministry said BC Builds developments aim to create affordable housing for families with incomes from $84,780 to $131,950 for a studio or one-bedroom home, or $134,410 to $191,910 for a two-bedroom home or larger.

The monthly rent will vary by community to reflect local incomes, the ministry said.

The BC Builds announcement comes just ahead of the start of its spring legislative session next week and the introduction of the government’s budget on Feb. 22, with a provincial election set for the fall.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian PressDirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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