Playground for the super-rich or increased protection of most vulnerable renters?

May 6, 2024 | 42-5, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

British Columbia will spend more than $500 million to ensure the World Cup is a profitable venture for the FIFA.

The cost of hosting the World Cup In Vancouver has already doubled in two years and we still have two years until we host the seven soccer games. Former Premier John Horgan described the relationship with the FIFA as the equivalent of signing a blank cheque. That is exactly it is, a blank cheque that we cannot escape.

The government needs to acknowledge that the seven World Cup games are hosted during the already busy tourist season in Vancouver. The point here is that it is displacing economic activity. FIFA rules are extremely restrictive, we know they already limit other events, but will other activity such as the film industry also be limited?

I am concerned by the potential impact on the homeless population in Vancouver. We saw forceful removal of homeless people in advance of the 2010 Olympics and this has also been the experience in other host cities of major sporting events in the past.

Think of how many more deeply affordable rental units the province could protect if they weren’t so committed to ensuring FIFA profits.


A. Olsen:

The province’s rental protection fund is distributing $500 million to non-profits to acquire existing affordable housing units, the most affordable housing currently in the province. Its aim is to protect more than 2,000 homes. The tag line is “The most affordable housing we have is the housing we’ve already got,” and we agree with that.

For every new affordable rental unit in B.C., four are lost to investors, demolition or rent increases. For many, the loss of affordable units is a pipeline to homelessness, something that we’ve been talking about in question period through other topics. Homelessness is one of the key issues that we’ve been dealing with here in question period. By 2030, an estimated 4,700 people in Vancouver alone will be unhoused due to the loss of low-income units.

If the rental protection fund is such a good model, why stop at $500 million? Why not add the $500 million that we’re going to spend on FIFA to add another 2,000 units of affordable housing to protect those? My question is to the Premier. What’s the bigger priority for this government: creating a playground for the super rich or keeping people housed?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

It’s great to be hearing questions about housing and the importance of housing. We certainly have acknowledged on this side of the House that we’re two decades behind when it comes to having the affordable housing that we need in our communities. There was for far too long governments that felt, “We’ll just stay out of the way,” that somehow this will just solve itself, that somehow the housing will come to people that need it at the price rates that they need it. What we know now, and what the entire country and across North America is being discussed, is that we need governments to be taking action.

The member has talked rightfully about the rental protection fund, a policy that is groundbreaking across the country. The member said: “Well, if it was so popular, why didn’t we move more dollars to it?” I can share with the member that the federal government actually is putting $1.5 billion towards the same model across the country. It’s a reflection, I think, that the housing policies that we’re putting in British Columbia are now being adopted across the country. It’s a reflection that we’re taking this issue very seriously.

I can go through all of the measures, but I won’t in the interest of time. I just want to say to the member that every single day we’re making new investments and new projects in communities throughout the province, whether it’s Indigenous housing, whether it’s our community housing fund, whether it’s a rental protection fund. We know that we’re behind as a province, after two decades, and we know there’s a lot of work to do but we are going full speed ahead here in B.C.

The Speaker: Member, supplemental.

A. Olsen:

I think the rental protection fund will protect about half of what we’re going to see by 2030: people who are going to be displaced, people who are not going to be able to afford their houses. The half billion dollars that this province is going to spend on FIFA would go a long way to protecting more affordable homes for British Columbians.

Large sporting events have a history of inflicting harm on unhoused populations, particularly. The pattern is predictable. Police clear homeless encampments. People are forced out of sight, without adequate housing or services provided. This was the case in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics. Police forcefully removed homeless people from high-visibility tourist areas in Vancouver. As the Premier was the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association at the time, he said: “There are those who argue that we shouldn’t be spending billions of dollars on a two-week party until we’ve dealt with the fact that people are freezing and starving in our streets.”

My question is again to the Premier. Does he still stand by those words?

Hon. R. Kahlon:

What I would say to the member is that we can do both. We can provide housing for people in our communities. That’s why we’re making historic-level investments in British Columbia. It feels like every two weeks there’s a new opening of a housing project throughout the province. The member knows in the Downtown Eastside, there have been significant projects that have opened just recently. The member knows we’re working closely with the city of Vancouver to ensure that anyone that needs access to shelter has access to shelter. We’re proud of the work we’re doing. We know there’s more work to do.

But as far as the World Cup, I have to mention this, which is we are going to be welcoming the entire world here. There are over one million visitors that are expected. This is the opportunity to generate $1 billion in economic opportunities, support our small businesses, support the foundation of our economy in Vancouver.

[2:20 p.m.]

There’s a lot of excitement around Metro Vancouver, around B.C. for this important initiative. But we can do both, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We’re investing record-breaking numbers in affordable housing, as well as supporting our economy so we can continue to have one of the strongest economies in the country.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share This

Share this post with your friends!