The legislation on housing targets, Housing Supply Act, is likely to face backlash from some B.C. mayors who have previously warned that running roughshod over municipal land use laws could spark a legal challenge.
On his first day in the Legislature, is B.C. Premier David Eby announcing two pieces of legislation that would remove rental and age restrictions in strata buildings and set affordable housing targets for municipalities, with the promise to overrule municipalities if they're failing to hit the benchmarks. PHOTO BY DARREN STONE /Times Colonist files
On his first day in the Legislature as premier, David Eby announced two pieces of legislation that would remove rental and age restrictions in strata buildings and set affordable housing targets for municipalities, with the promise to overrule those that fail to hit the benchmarks.
The legislation on housing targets is likely to face backlash from some B.C. mayors who have previously warned that running roughshod over municipal land-use laws could spark a legal challenge.
The housing announcement just three days after Eby was sworn in as B.C.’s 37th premier is an attempt by the former attorney general and housing minister to make good on his promise to move quickly on the housing reforms that were a key plank of his leadership campaign.
Amendments to the Strata Property Act, if passed, would remove all rental restrictions from all B.C. strata buildings, which Eby estimated would turn thousands of empty units into homes for renters.
It would also make it illegal for strata to have 19-plus age restrictions that force out young families when they have a child. “Seniors only” strata will still be allowed.
“It is simply unacceptable that a British Columbian who is searching Craigslist for a place to rent can’t find a home and somebody who owns a condo is not permitted to rent that home to that individual,” Eby said at a press conference in the rotunda of the legislature.
“It is equally unacceptable that a young couple that lives in a condo and decides to start a family has to start searching for a new home because that strata has a rule that everybody who lives in the unit has to be 19 years of age or older.”
Eby said there are approximately 2,900 strata units that are sitting empty because of rental restrictions, data based on owners who applied for exemptions to the speculation and vacancy tax.
The new law will apply to condos built before 2010. Buildings constructed in 2010 onwards are subject to new rules that prevent newer buildings from capping the number of rental units.
The government is hoping to pass the Strata Property Act before the end of the fall session on Thursday and will take effect immediately.
The second piece of legislation is the Housing Supply Act which aims to increase the supply of housing in B.C. by establishing targets for municipalities where affordable housing is in short supply.
The targets will be set based on the housing needs reports that local governments are already required to create every five years.
The government said the targets will initially be applied to eight to 10 municipalities, determined by community plans and growth projections based on census data. The premier’s office said work is already underway to identify those municipalities.
If the province determines a municipality is not taking actions to meet the targets, it can step in to force compliance through three options:
1. An adviser appointed by the housing minister can review municipal processes to determine what’s stalling housing starts.
2. The housing minister can issue a directive for the municipality to take specific action.
3. As a last resort, the province can issue an order-in-council allowing it to override the municipality to force through new housing projects.
“My hope is we never have to use it,” Eby said of the provincial override powers. “(The Act) does have teeth and it needs to have teeth to make sure we’re meeting those goals.”
The legislation aims to speed up municipal zoning approval processes, which Eby says are outdated and slow down the construction of new buildings and redevelopments. If passed in the house this week, the legislation will take effect in mid-2023.
Eby, the MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, has been candid in his frustration with municipal governments that block the rezoning of affordable housing developments because of minor issues such as parking and he’s called out “NIMBYism” by neighbourhood groups that oppose density.
However, several B.C. mayors told Postmedia News in September, when Eby released his housing platform, that the plan to override municipalities will face significant backlash and they would rather see the province use the “carrot approach” of offering more financial support and incentives instead of wielding a stick.
Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto applauded the legislation and said other municipalities should, too.
She said municipalities must accelerate the building of affordable housing and they can’t do it alone.
“We need the province to support to push us and push all local governments to (build) … more affordable homes in every neighbourhood in every municipality across B.C,” she said.
B.C. Green party leader Sonia Furstenau said she was disappointed Eby didn’t make announcements about increasing the supply of below-market housing for low-income renters. She also said the legislation does not include protection against Real Estate Investment Trusts which allow investment groups to redevelop strata housing to increase shareholder profits.
“We need to ensure that speculators and investors are not profiting from increased supply,” Furstenau said in a statement. “This problem has been made worse by a lack of federal and provincial government investment in non-market housing.”
There are several aspects of Eby’s housing platform that have not yet been acted on.
Eby’s platform called for a flipping tax that will apply to the sale of a residential property. The tax rate, which was not specified, will be highest for those who hold properties for the shortest period of time and goes down to zero after two years.
He also wants to legalize secondary suites in every region in B.C. and allow developers to replace a single-family home with up to three units in major urban centres.
The housing overhauls are complex and take time, Eby said, but he promised work is underway.