Housing needs assessment to be mandated through Bill 18

May 8, 2018 | 41-3, Blog, Governance, Video | 0 comments

The BC Greens campaigned on evidence-based decision-making. We have often criticized government for making a political decision, or decisions that benefit a donor.

Bill 18 is mandating local governments to complete and publish a housing needs assessment every five years. The goal of this legislation is to collect data that will inform development decisions.

Local government develop a lot of studies, the studies get turned into plans. There are many studies and plans collecting dust on a shelf because in the end local government politicians need be informed by the data and make decisions based on their plans.

There is no question we need to develop more complete communities, and having an understanding of the housing stock and the changing demographic needs in our communities is important information to have.

Unfortunately, Bill 18 only requires elected Mayors’ and Councillors’ to “consider” the findings and recommendations of their housing needs assessments not follow them.

In this debate at second reading I raise this fundamental concern I have with this Bill. More to follow.


It’s my pleasure to stand today and speak to Bill 18, second reading. It’s quite interesting to hear the perspectives of my colleagues.

In my read of the bill, this bill isn’t designed to actually build new housing. This bill is so that municipalities can gather the data in order to inform the decision-making. In fact, that’s a piece in this bill that, to me, is a bit troublesome, to be honest with you. There’s nothing compelling the decision-making. It’s a consideration.

Where the government will get criticism that this isn’t building one piece of new housing, whatever that means…. My biggest challenge with this is that…. I don’t want the same thing, which is another report collecting dust. I want to see something that is going to inform decision-making.

In fact, in Saanich North and the Islands, the former MLA who was in this seat before me put together some money and various partners, and they did a report, a housing needs assessment. I’ve referred often to that housing needs assessment. It’s a good piece, for what he was able to put together, to identify gaps within our municipalities.

In fact, he extended it further than just the municipal governments. He extended it even to First Nations, which is something that…. When I take a look at some of the broadest housing needs that we have in our communities, especially in Saanich North and the Islands, those are going to be found within the First Nations communities.

We so often hear: “Well, First Nations are a jurisdiction of the federal government. That’s the jurisdiction of the federal government, and the federal government will figure it out.” But the reality is that the housing needs in a First Nation community so often impact the communities that that First Nation exists in. While we can separate the two by levels of government, I don’t know that for our communities, there’s actually any physical separation. There isn’t. We live and work and play within the community.

Reports should not be gathering dust

I think one of the pieces that the former MLA, the gap analysis that was done on the Saanich Peninsula…. I’m very thankful that he included the First Nations within that report. One of the things that I note is that there are a lot of reports that I was a part of in Central Saanich that still do gather dust on the shelf. They provide us that information. For me, I think one of the things that I would like to ask, when we get to the committee stage of this bill, is how it is that we can compel that information to be used to make decisions so that we’re actually building complete communities.

Where my main disagreement is with the two members and the official opposition that spoke is that…. These actually can enable the construction of housing units. They inform the local government, if the local government decides that they want to be informed.

One of the challenges that I have in just simply suggesting that the market is going to solve this all for us is that…. The market has largely been left to determine what kind of housing is being built in our communities, and there are massive gaps.

There are massive gaps in our communities right now at the low end of the housing market. There is the no income, the low-to-no income, the middle income, the missing middle. We’re not building houses for those folks. We’re not building houses for small families, like the one that I have with a partner and two children. Those houses aren’t being built right now. But we certainly are talking an awful lot about how we’re building a considerable number of housing stock for condo units that are not for the identified housing gaps that are in that study that we have.

When I have brought that housing study forward to the municipalities in Central Saanich and North Saanich and Sidney, certainly they acknowledge them, but nothing is compelling them to follow that. That is a substantive gap within this bill, as I read it. Perhaps there might be something in there that can be done through regulation or within the bill. As I see it, it basically says in the bill that boards at the regional government level or councils at the local government level are to consider the information that they have.

Informed decision-making

As I was saying to my friend across the way here, there can be an awful lot of considering, lots and lots of considering, with very little action to actually do it. When you have a developer in front of you who’s very much laying out their economics for their project or the zoning that’s required or the desire that they have, that’s pretty compelling. When you are weighing, in the decision, the property tax benefit lift that’s going to happen to the municipality, perhaps it’s much easier just to approve that than it is to ask the question: what are we doing for the other aspects of housing? So that’s one question that I have.

I take a look at some other pieces to this that I’ll be asking about. It was suggested that, perhaps, staff will be doing this. There doesn’t appear to be any qualification. Who is going to be qualified to do these reports? Perhaps that’s going to come through in regulation, but I don’t see that in the bill. Is it going to be a staff member, as was suggested by the member from Kamloops? Or are these reports going to be contracted out to a professional? If that’s the case, who’s the professional? Which companies? And what are their qualifications in order that they qualify to do this work?

Also, I have another question that I’ll be asking around the terms of reference. It’s clearly laid out — what is going to be expected to be in this report. I’ll be asking around whether or not municipalities can add to that terms of reference and have a broader question being asked or if that’s going to be where it’s at.

Those are some of the questions that I have. In the spirit of this, I support gathering data. I support evidence-based decision-making. I support that. I support the collection of data. For me, the most important thing is that if we’re going to compel municipalities to collect that data, then that should inform the actual decision that comes out the other end.

I will leave it at that for today. We can get further in depth into this bill when we go to committee stage.

I’m thankful that this was brought forward for us to have the discussion. I think that it will inform the province and the decisions that we make here in the provincial government about where support can go, where funding can go and some of the decisions that need to be made on the market side of things.

I thank you very much for bringing it forward, to the minister, and I look forward to debating it at committee stage.



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