Province acquiring land for affordable housing in transit-oriented development

Apr 30, 2022 | 42-3, Bills, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Video | 0 comments

In Bill 16, the provincial government is seeking to give the British Columbia Transportation Financing Authority the power to purchase land to allow for more transit-oriented developments.

This is a positive change that has the potential to create more deeply affordable housing near transit routes. With inflation creating pressure on all aspects of our lives it is important that we are creating livable communities and this could be a step in that direction.

Of course, purchasing the land is just one aspect of creating more affordable housing. We need strong policy in place that ensures the provincial government is investing in non-market solutions so that public money is not further inflating the red hot housing market.

[Transcript]

I’ll wait, if you want to clap. [Applause.]

No, no, not for me. That never happens.

It’s my honour to stand and speak to Bill 16, the Transportation Amendment Act. Certainly, I listened with interest to the previous member’s comments. I think when we take a look at this bill, we look at the opportunities that it presents, granting the power to the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority to acquire land for the purpose of transit-oriented developments. I think that this is a very positive step forward from the government.

Part of the challenge with the cost of housing that we’re facing today is the cost of land, and it’s a huge portion of the cost of housing. So when the member previously asked the question about whether or not the provincial government was going to get into development, well, the reality is that the provincial government has a tremendous amount of power to be able to deal with the increased land costs and to actually deliver housing that is non-market or that is dealing with the market pressures as they currently exist.

Private development can’t do that. Private development has to buy the land for what the value is and then develop it at the cost of that development. And increased, escalating construction costs, escalating building supplies, has made it incredibly difficult for the development industry to deliver units of housing, homes, for British Columbians at a rate that they can afford. We can say that it’s below market, but if the market is higher than most people can afford to pay, then it’s truly not affordable housing. It is actually simply less expensive than what the market would be, but that doesn’t mean that people can actually afford to live in it. Oftentimes, in many cases, over 50 percent of people’s income they’re paying for their housing costs.

I think one of the opportunities that this bill presents is the creation of livable communities. I grew up in Brentwood Bay. At the time, it was a livable community. It was small. It was self-contained. It was a great place to grow up. For the most part, my parents didn’t have huge pressure coming down on them for the cost of living.

I know my peer group, as I talk to my peers…. I’m in a different situation because I live on an Indian reserve in this country, so there is a different situation there altogether. But I do know the impact that the cost of housing has for many families, most families in British Columbia.

I think one of the things that those families, families in British Columbia, yearn for is the ability to live in their communities and feel part of the community and not feel like there’s constant pressure taking them out.

With the provincial government taking the steps, through this bill, through Bill 16, to be able to purchase land next to transit lines…. We know that this could increase the availability of more affordable, perhaps even non-market, units of housing — hopefully, actually, non-market units of housing, homes for British Columbians.

[3:10 p.m.]
But the other big costs that British Columbians carry is around transportation. The transportation costs…. Increasing gas prices, increasing energy prices — all of these increases are further making life less affordable than previous generations had it. So the ability to….

Of course, we know — those of us that have been in local government — that the development of communities, the development of residential neighbourhoods is always far more connected to the transportation network than is perhaps noted in the way that we organize our laws and the way that we organize zoning and who owns the roads, etc. By making sure that these connections are made, by making sure that there is density in and around where the transit lines and transportation are, allows for greater efficiencies within our communities.

I think that the provincial government absolutely has a role in this. As the member previously raised, there will be, necessarily, questions with local governments — absolutely. That will be the role of the provincial government — to connect with local governments and to make sure that there is open, transparent communication on this and to make sure, rather than having an adversarial process, that it is a process that’s open and that is transparent. It’s certainly my hope for this, because local governments don’t have the capacity to be able to ensure that — to keep the land costs down. The provincial government does.

We know that these transit-oriented developments…. I’ve heard…. The number that I have here in my notes is 800 metres. I’ve talked to students in my riding that are students from Germany and from European countries. I met with a few of them a couple of years back at the local high school, talking about how there are more frequent transit stops closer together. Making transit more convenient for people is a way to encourage them to move away from single-occupant vehicles to the transit and the transportation and the mass transit that’s being provided. Making sure that there is density in and around those systems will ensure that those systems are able to be maintained and that there will be ridership on them, and certainly that’s something that we can all support.

When I take a look at this bill, I’m pleased that the government is taking these steps forward. Of course, we will be asking questions. I’ll be listening, with great interest, to the questions that are coming from our colleagues in the official opposition. We’ll have questions of our own. I would say that…. Well, maybe I’ll just leave it at that. I’ve addressed the issues around the potential tension between municipal and local governments.

If there’s one flag that I will raise here it is that the success of this initiative isn’t going to be government granting themselves the ability to do this — the provincial government. It is going to be how it is executed on the ground with the local governments and ensuring that there is collaboration with our transit providers, B.C. Transit, TransLink, and the local governments and regional districts who have transportation authorities. All of the players need to be at the table. All of the people need to be around the table to have this discussion.

So the step here that we’re doing to grant government the opportunity to do this is just the first step. It will be the steps that follow that will determine whether or not this initiative is actually successful in delivering what the promise is. It’s really important that we do ask those questions, but it’s also really important that once this bill is out of our hands and into the hands of government and into the hands of the Ministry of Transportation, the provincial government proceeds with a very open and collaborative process to ensure that all of those that are affected by this, all of the different governing bodies and authorities that are affected by this decision and by this new act, this new law, when it passes, will be brought along in these conversations as partners in it, rather than what potentially could be, which is decisions being made by the provincial government and dragging those partners along with them.

[3:15 p.m.]
Certainly my hope is for the former rather than the latter, and that will be the encouragement that I will continue to have to the minister and to the government. But this is certainly a positive step forward and one that at this stage of the debate — and I don’t see any of that changing — I certainly support.

Thank you to the minister for bringing it forward and to the government for bringing it forward, and I look forward to the remainder of the debate. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM. Thank you.

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