B.C.’s housing market could be in for major changes under a sweeping plan announced Wednesday by David Eby, the person many think could become the province’s next premier.
An enormous package of reforms proposed by NDP leadership candidate Eby would introduce new taxes, override municipalities on big zoning issues and speed up the construction of new rental and purchase housing across the province.
Among the proposed reforms, Eby is also pledging to introduce:
- A new tax on selling residential property within two years of purchase to target profit-flipping, but with exemptions for deaths, divorce and other life events
- A BC Builds program, with provincial land and money to create new housing for only B.C. citizens
- A $500-million fund to buy rental buildings and protect them from developers
- A plan to override red tape and zoning delays in municipalities
- Making secondary suites legal everywhere
- Setting minimum housing targets for local governments with extra cash for transit and amenities if they’re hit, and an “intervention” if they’re missed
- Changes to stratas, including removing all restrictions against renting and banning certain ages with the exception of senior homes
- Allowing all single-family homes in urban areas to be replaced with three-unit structures like triplexes, so long as they meet local setback and height rules
The latter policy is similar, but not as wide-reaching, as the Missing and Middle Housing policies being debated by Victoria city council.
Eby said Wednesday that if he wins the NDP leadership race and becomes premier in December, he’d move swiftly to implement the policies
“We just can’t, with the growth we are seeing, we just can’t have cities that are opting out of housing,” he said. “It’s essential infrastructure, it’s like electrical wires, its like sewage, we can’t have families that are forced and priced out of communities because a city is not approving that housing.”
Reaction was largely positive Wednesday from housing experts.
“You immediately triple in a lot of places, I hope, how many homes get built when a home is torn down, and you speed up approval processes,” said Tom Davidoff with the UBC Centre for Economics and Real Estate.
“So I think this should make generally our province more responsive to the growth and demand that’s happening. I don’t know if this makes us more affordable, but it makes us less affordable over time.”
Political opponents, however, questioned why the NDP government hasn’t enacted any of the bold suggestions put forward by Eby since forming government in 2017.
“First and foremost, where has this been the last six years?” asked BC Liberal MLA Peter Milobar. “Mr. Eby has had significant portfolios, not the least of which has been housing minister.”
Calling it the most ambitious housing plan he’s seen proposed in his 15 years covering B.C. politics, CHEK News political correspondent Rob Shaw says Wednesday’s proposal reveal “dramatically changes” the housing debate in next month’s civic elections.
“And many municipalities looking at this, realizing they won’t be able to say not to new housing if Eby wins,” says Shaw.
General voting day for B.C.’s municipal elections takes place Oct. 15.