Premier David Eby begins to move his housing agenda forward two new bills in the last week of session.
Bill 43 aims to increase supply. However, significant questions remain about what kind of supply is being built. In addition to market housing supply, will these changes lead to affordable non-market housing such as co-operatives, supportive, and non-profit housing?
I’m pleased to stand to speak to Bill 43, the Housing Supply Act, and for the opportunity to talk about our vision for housing.
According to this B.C. NDP government, this bill will help speed up housing development and increase supply by giving the province the power to enforce housing targets on municipalities with the greatest need and highest projected growth. It’s encouraging to see this government begin to take the housing crisis seriously by introducing new legislation.
We need more supply of housing in British Columbia, yes. But when we’re talking about affordability, the type of housing matters. The housing crisis is affecting communities right across the province. To address this, the government needs to be specific about the type of housing supply that is needed. That is missing in this bill, and it’s not been made clear what the plan is by the new Premier.
British Columbians need access to safe, livable, affordable housing. Safe, adequate housing is a critical component of people’s health and well-being. It helps people live with dignity and feel included in communities, regardless of their income. Adding more market housing may improve supply, but it does not guarantee affordability. Communities need dedicated housing for renters that is protected from exploitative market conditions.
The source of the housing affordability problem we have today is that housing is treated simply as a financial asset, a commodity instead of a human right. Real estate investment trusts, or REITs, as they’re known, and other corporations are generating huge returns for shareholders by financializing our housing stock, making housing more and more unaffordable.
Corporations are profiting from the housing market, at the expense of British Columbians. We’re seeing doctors, nurses, teachers and other essential workers who are deciding just to leave our province because they cannot afford to live in their communities anymore.
Our provincial budget and this provincial government is addicted to the revenue derived from real estate taxes, and property transfer taxes in particular. My colleague and I have raised this issue time and again with the previous Minister for Housing — in fact, with both the previous Ministers for Housing. Our province benefits from an inflated housing market. We are addicted, as a province, to the wrong revenues.
The housing crisis has been made worse by a lack of federal and provincial government investments into non-market-housing options. It’s time that we as a province turn that around. That’s not in this bill.
We need to supply more housing units. However, not all housing units are equal. Currently, the supply this Premier, his colleagues and the Minister of Housing are talking about are units fully exposed to the market pressures. We need to build non-market housing units in B.C., including supportive housing, non-profit, co-op housing and housing that meets the specific needs of the communities. We need a clear vision for housing in our province, one where communities and neighborhoods are thriving and resilient and where health and wellbeing of residents matter. We cannot simply….
Put it this way. We must be clear about the types of housing solutions that are needed in our communities. It’s problematic when we build housing supply and yet those units are vulnerable to corporations purchasing them and driving up the cost of rent for British Columbians. The government must ensure that speculators and investors do not continue to profit from increased supply at the expense of British Columbians.
In the last municipal election, housing was the central issue in almost every single community across the province. This bill signals that these new councils need to act quickly to increase their housing units or face unknown consequences. The details of those consequences and the affordability targets they need to meet, well, are yet to be determined. At some point in the spring, they will find out, or so we are told.
In doing so, this government has left every municipal council in limbo until those regulations, which will not pass through this chamber for deliberation, come into effect. Community members, developers, planners and councils will be under even more pressure to solve the housing problem without their provincial government’s guidance or support. This is not how we would characterize a collaborative process.
Last year, I asked the now new Premier if housing is considered a human right. He responded by saying yes. To live up to that response, his government must move to create progressive housing policy measures that reflect housing as a human right. This bill does not accomplish that. The outcome we must be striving for and measuring is secure, affordable homes for all British Columbians — for the British Columbians that live here today and for future British Columbians.
This government must support this by setting funding and meeting targets for non-market housing. That’s not targets for municipalities. That’s targets that this government is willing to set for themselves and committed to achieving themselves. Without this, this government will be doing as we’ve seen quite a bit recently, and that’s measuring the wrong outcomes with that. Thank you for this opportunity to speak to this bill. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.