Does the housing minister feel it’s appropriate for middle-income earners to subsidize housing of higher wage earners?

Feb 28, 2024 | 42-5, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

With the BC Builds program, essentially a recycled HousingHub that the BC NDP announced in 2018 they have reclassified middle-income for a household from $50-100,000 as it was in the former program to $84-191,000.

The BC NDP have offered little relief for people making under $84,000 and so the program essentially amounts to middle-income British Columbians to be subsidizing people who earn high wages. I asked housing minister Hon. Ravi Kahlon if he thought this was fair. He chose not to answer my question.



A. Olsen: The B.C. NDP will “bring local governments, Indigenous partners, the non-profit sector and developers together for innovative partnerships that create homes people throughout British Columbia can afford.” They will build “affordable homes for middle-income people, key to tackling the housing crisis, and we have to work together to get it done.”

These are the talking points for the BC Builds program. Right? Wrong. They’re from the 2018 HousingHub announcement. The Premier’s highly anticipated flagship housing program is a rebranded version of a program that was brought in by a former minister and that has delivered 3,823 units, with 2,331 more units under construction in six years. It’s a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of units that the reports say that we need. At least the HousingHub targeted average incomes as low as $50,000.

To the Minister of Housing, how can British Columbians have any confidence that BC Builds will be more successful than the abandoned program that they recycled it from, called the Housing Hub?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

Thanks to the member for the question.

I am so proud of the BC Builds program, not only because this will build affordable housing for middle-income earners in British Columbia, where governments, for decades, decided that that’s not what they wanted to do. Not only am I proud that this will partner with local governments — we’re already seeing partnerships with First Nations — to use public lands, public financing to build more affordable housing.

Not only that, we’re also going to keep it in not-for-profit hands. We’re going to keep it in government hands. That is the type of innovative solution that we need to address the housing crisis.

Now, I appreciate my friends from the Greens. I looked at a Greens platform, and it said: “We need small-scale, multi-unit housing. We need transit-oriented development. We need more supply on the market.” I was pleased to see that. What I wasn’t pleased to see was that it was actually the Ontario Greens that had that plan. It wasn’t the B.C. Greens.
If we want to address this housing crisis, I think it’s important that the B.C. Greens step up and address the challenges, partner with us to find solutions and not side with the BCU party and the B.C. Conservatives.

The Speaker:

House Leader, Third Party, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

Actually, what I’m talking about is the minister’s own program, this new program that’s masquerading…. Basically, it’s just the old program, the old program that was unsuccessful in delivering the tens of thousands of units that they promised — basically, taking the exact same language from a news release that was put out in 2018, rewriting it, moving words around a little bit and then pretending to British Columbians that it’s some kind of brand-new program.

Up to 20 percent of the BC Builds units are below-market rents. The remaining 80 percent are geared to incomes of middle-class households, those earning between $85,000 to $191,000 a year. That works out to rents between $2,550 to $5,730 a month. I invite British Columbians to let me know if they believe that that’s affordable housing.

I agree we need to support middle-income households, yet hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are insecurely housed. They pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent. They’re terrified about being evicted. And guess what. British Columbia has the highest rates of evictions in this country.

[11:00 a.m.]

My question again is to the Minister of Housing. Does he think it’s okay for households making $50,000 a year to subsidize housing for those households making $191,000 a year?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

I think it’s important to note that the BC Builds program, and the concept of the province and the federal government getting into building housing for middle-income families, is so popular now that not only has the federal government decided to invest $2 billion in finances for the program, but other provinces across the country are calling us, asking us how they can adopt similar programs across the country.

The member can maybe disagree with that initiative and maybe can disagree with every initiative that we bring forward, but this is a housing crisis, and we need real solutions. Not only is this program helping address middle-income families. We are also investing historic levels of dollars in building affordable housing for people under $85,000. We are making historic investments, billions of dollars in investment.

In fact, the member will know that just here in the capital region, we have 7,000 units that we are funding for people earning less than $85,000 a year. It’s important to make the investments in affordable housing for all income earners, because we need to address this housing crisis.

We’re proud of the work we’re doing. We’re leading the country in this work, and we’re going to continue to do that work going forward.


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