Expert Panel releases 23 recommendations to improve housing conditions for British Columbians

·6 min read

VICTORIA, BC, June 17, 2021 /CNW/ - Despite significant housing policy responses by all orders of government, British Columbians' ability to rent or purchase homes that meet their needs at costs they can afford has worsened in recent decades. Reversing these trends will require long term work and cooperation by all orders of government, along with all other stakeholders in the housing industry. This is according to Opening doors: unlocking housing supply for affordability, the final report from the Canada-British Columbia Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply and Affordability.

Government of Canada logo (CNW Group/Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
Government of Canada logo (CNW Group/Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)

Established in September 2019 by the governments of Canada and BC, the Expert Panel was tasked with developing actionable recommendations to increase the supply of housing and improve affordability province-wide. Through consultations with stakeholders, including experts from academia, private and non-profit housing providers, Indigenous housing providers, financial institutions, property developers, tenant and housing advocacy organizations, employers, public servants and elected officials, the Expert Panel has produced 23 recommendations which fall under five broad calls to action.

"In addition to BC's long-standing housing challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of a secure home to people's physical, economic and mental well-being," said Joy MacPhail, Chair, Expert Panel on the Future of Housing Supply and Affordability. "The pandemic has also caused housing prices province-wide to rise sharply, as historically low interest rates allow borrowers to qualify for larger mortgage loans, and households seek more space to work or study from home. This acceleration in housing demand has hindered British Columbians' ability to access safe and affordable housing. There is an urgent need for coordinated action by all orders of government to dramatically increase this supply."

The five broad calls to action and a sample of the 23 recommendations are listed below. The complete list of recommendations and the full report can be found here.

Calls to Action and Recommendations:

1) Creating a planning framework that proactively encourages housing, including:

  • BC government impose statutory time limits to all stages of the property development process for all types of development.

  • BC Government require all local governments to proactively update zoning bylaws to reflect official community plans, as widely and rapidly as possible. Relying on privately initiated rezoning (spot-zoning) should be strongly discouraged.

  • BC government develop a province wide digital development permitting system to meet local government and industry needs in a streamlined, timely and cost efficient fashion. This system would be a central repository, including all relevant development requirements and restrictions, and also a central system for efficient and timely management of development proposals from pre-application through to occupancy.

2) Reforming fees on property development, including:

  • BC government phase out community amenity contributions in tandem with an expansion of development cost charges, requiring any new or expanded fees or taxation of development to only fund capital expenses.

  • Federal and provincial governments create a municipal housing incentive program rewarding the creation of net new housing supply wherever demand occurs.

3) Expanding the supply of community and affordable housing, including:

  • Federal and provincial governments create an acquisition fund enabling non-profit housing organizations to acquire currently affordable housing properties at risk of being repriced or redeveloped into more expensive units.

  • The federal government make long-term funding commitments, as was done until the mid-1990s, when nearly 10% of all national housing starts were community housing units.

4) Improving coordination among and within all orders of government, including:

  • To better address housing needs in Indigenous communities, the federal government move forward with co-developing an urban, rural and northern housing strategy.

  • Local governments offer density bonuses, tied to longer-term or deeper affordability, to affordable housing developers that receive federal and provincial construction and redevelopment funding.

5) Ensuring more equitable treatment of renters and homeowners, including:

  • A review of the impact of the capital gains tax exemption on principal residences.

  • The federal government provide tax savings measures to renters in the form of tax deductibility or tax credits for annual rent paid, or a renter's tax-free savings account (TFSA) contribution amount in addition to regular TFSA limits.

  • The BC government phase out the Home Owner Grant. Monies saved from this should be used to fund social housing in addition to commitments made in the 10-year plan, Homes for BC: A 30-Point Plan for Housing in British Columbia.

Quick Facts:

  • The members of the Panel are leaders and specialists in a wide range of fields related to various aspects of housing, urban composition, development finance and demographics. Their objective was to identify additional measures that federal and provincial governments, and possibly municipal governments, non-governmental organizations and other actors in housing markets, could undertake to improve housing supply and affordability in B.C.'s high-priced markets.

  • Since 2017, the B.C. government has taken steps to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes, including the largest investment in housing affordability in B.C.'s history – $7 billion over 10 years.

  • Through a 30-point housing plan launched in 2018, the provincial government is working with partners to deliver 114,000 affordable homes over 10 years, with nearly 30,000 homes now open or in progress. The plan has also introduced measures to curb speculative demand that has driven up the cost of living. This has helped to return thousands of rental units to the market.

  • Budget 2021 included a commitment from the B.C. government to finance 9,000 new homes for middle-income households through BC Housing's HousingHub.

  • To help more Canadians access affordable housing that meets their needs, the Government of Canada launched the National Housing Strategy (NHS) – a 10-year, $70+ billion plan that will give more Canadians a place to call home — this includes more than $13 billion committed through the 2020 Fall Economic Statement.

  • Under agreements with provinces and territories, more than $13.5 billion in federal, provincial, and territorial funding under the NHS will support the stock of community housing and address regional priorities from 2018 to 2028.

Learn More:

To read the Expert Panel's Final Report, visit: www.engage.gov.bc.ca/housingaffordability

To learn about the members of the housing panel, visit: www.engage.gov.bc.ca/housingaffordability/the-expert-panel/

To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://workingforyou.gov.bc.ca/

For more information about B.C.'s HousingHub: https://www.bchousing.org/housinghub

To find out more about the National Housing Strategy, visit https://www.placetocallhome.ca/

British Columbia logo (CNW Group/Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)
British Columbia logo (CNW Group/Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation)

SOURCE Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

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