Does the provincial government consider housing a human right?

Oct 18, 2021 | 42-2, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 1 comment

The red hot housing market is deeply concerning.

The housing crisis is a global issue but as we develop measures to address the extreme inflation of housing prices in British Columbia it is important to understand the underlying philosophy that is informing the decisions of the provincial government. So I asked Minister David Eby if his government views housing as a human right?

At the heart of the housing crisis is a financial system that has commodified housing. For the past few decades we have left affordable housing to be constructed by the for-profit development industry. That approach has not been successful.

There are a number of measures that governments can take to address the housing crisis, most importantly they need to be building more non-market housing.

In my supplemental question I asked Minister Eby about the British Columbia Housing Hub. The program invests billions of public money into building more affordable rental housing and homeownership options for low-moderate income British Columbians.

I asked Minister Eby how we are ensuring that the public investment is achieving the stated goals and not just creating a situation where the public investment is making the situation worse for those on the outside looking in.


A. Olsen:

Today I’m hoping to better understand this government’s perspective on housing. Does this government consider housing to be a human right?

Hon. D. Eby:

I think there’s been quite a dramatic shift in government’s philosophy around housing since our CASA agreement with the Green Party that brought the NDP into government in 2017. Now, that shift was a shift from seeing housing as purely a market-driven commodity to seeing housing as a human right. That shows up in a number of aspects of our work, from our response to encampments to the speculation tax, which says if you’re holding housing empty, you should pay more because that is costing the system more.

These are really important principles. We stand by them. And I thank the member for the question.

Mr. Speaker:

Member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.

A. Olsen:

As I think everybody in this House knows, we have been languishing in a housing crisis since the 2017 election. This morning when I opened up my email from the Capital Daily, I read that the Canada Mortgage and Corp. report doesn’t believe that Victoria’s housing market is overpriced, even though the cost of a single-family home has increased 30 percent since pre-COVID and the average home costs 20 times the median income.

Despite this government’s 30-point housing plan, the housing market is increasingly less affordable. One response of this government was to create the B.C. Housing Hub to increase the supply of affordable rental housing and home ownership through community, government, non-profit, and private sector partnerships. [Applause.]

Take your victory lap. That’s good.

Billions of dollars of public money is now being used to finance new construction. It’s a smart program as long as that public investment is not just more fuel on a red-hot housing market. I’ve heard many stories that housing that is called affordable is still out of reach for many British Columbians.

Again to the Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing: what specific safeguards are in place to ensure that the billions of dollars of public money that we are investing in the Housing Hub are going to build no-market solutions that British Columbians can actually afford to live in?

Hon. D. Eby:

Thank you to the member for the question. First, a few numbers. B.C. Housing just released their data around housing registration. This is completed housing in the province, their September report. I’m happy to say that in 2021, year to date, 11,000 new rental housing units have opened, just since the beginning of 2021. And 2019 was the previous high, with 13,000 rental housing units opened that year.

Let me just have a look at pre-2017 here. It’s tough — an average of about 2,000 units a year. So right now we’re building five times the number of rental housing units a year. In 16 years, the previous government built 130 student housing beds. Let me just check. We’ve got four times that amount under construction at one school, BCIT — one school.

So the member asked about safeguards. It’s an important question.

Safeguards are important, especially when we saw what happened under the previous government and their combination of political donations and housing policy.

Safeguards are really important. We know that having a safe and effective system in place of oversight is critically important. That’s why we’ve commissioned a third-party business firm to come in and do a review of B.C. Housing safeguards. We’re working with the Office of the Auditor General to review B.C. Housing’s work, to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to. Oversight is vital, and so we’re providing that in ways that we haven’t seen previously.

1 Comment

  1. Wendy Warshawski

    Applaud your questions. The NDP response ONLY referred to rental accommodation not to purchases.
    He did not answer your question….


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