The Clark government has revealed more details on its strategy to tackle B.C.’s housing affordability crisis.
The province announced $500-million back in September to address the issue, and with an election just months away, has added another $16-million to the total.
The cash is being earmarked for 68 projects laid out Tuesday, including 1,441 new rental units in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
Premier Christy Clark says the province’s white-hot real estate market is helping fund the plans.
“Our foreign buyers’ tax is helping us fund many of these initiatives as well. And our luxury surtax on homes over $2-million, or $3-million, that’s helping us support first time home buyers getting into the market,” she said.
“So trying to make sure that the wealthiest are paying to support the most vulnerable is part of the plan that we’re embarking on.”
The announcement was made at one of the province’s affordable project sites in Surrey, and also comes on national Housing Day in Canada.
Province-wide 2,900 rental units are being built – a figure also previously announced in September.
At the time, Clark said the money would go to fund a mix of housing for low-to-moderate-income earners, seniors, students, adults with developmental disabilities, aboriginals and single parents.
Buzz about where money will go
Former Victoria Mayor, now head of a non-profit housing organization, Dean Fortin, says they have the green-light for two new buildings because of the provincial funding.
“Those are 150 new units – units that would not have proceeded without this new money,” he said.
Speaking at the non-profit housing conference in Vancouver, Fortin said there is a lot of buzz in the air from a lot of service providers.
He said it’s exciting to know the details of where the money is going.
Projects planned for Vancouver:
The head of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Kishone Roy, says the nearly 3,000 new social housing units will be a good start.
But Roy says this kind of commitment is necessary every year to keep up with the need.
“Politicians of every political stripe at every level of government have largely abandoned housing as a policy issue for a generation, so it’s great that now we’re starting see some attention on it, but I want to see that attention turned into long-term sustained action,” he said.
Roy says that because of the time it takes to get buildings constructed, the housing situation for those most in need will get worse before it gets better.
Not a solution for everyone: housing critic
NDP Housing Critic David Eby says the new housing is good news for people living in tent cities, and a triumph for housing advocates who pushed for affordable housing.
But he says it also leaves a lot of people with no relief.
“For people who are looking for market rental housing, or trying to get into the housing market, this announcement really has nothing to do with addressing their concerns,” he said.
Eby says it’s also important to look at where the money is coming from.
“It’s coming from the property transfer tax, that is the product of a totally out of control housing market in Metro Vancouver that the government stood by and watched take place for a number of years,” Eby said.
Eby maintains that if the government would allow universities to borrow to build student housing, it would free up a lot of rentals.
He says it’s an easy move that would make a big difference.
“Rents pay for the borrowing, and it frees up a huge amount of market rental housing in the community as well as takes the burden off transit and road,” he said.
“All those students are out in the community competing for scarce rental housing spaces and crowding buses and Skytrains trying to get to school everyday, or driving and filling up roads instead of just living on campus where they’d rather be.”