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B.C. government plan is to build 108,000 houses, apartment units

Legalization of secondary suites and a tax on flipping homes part of the plan

The province is rolling out a new Homes for People plan it hopes will create more than 108,000 new houses and apartment units in the next few years.

Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced the plan at a Victoria-area hardware store on Monday (April 3).

"If you've scrolled through rental listings or seen the prices of homes in your community, you know how tough it is to find an affordable, decent place to live," Eby said. "Even though our province is currently building more housing than ever before, it's just not enough to meet the need. This plan will take us to the next level with unprecedented actions to tackle the challenges head-on, delivering even more homes for people, faster."

Broadly, the plan includes adding density in areas currently zoned single-residential and near transit, legalizing secondary suites coupled with financial incentives for home-owners who build such suites, expanding the existing speculation and vacancy tax to other areas and creating a tax designed to discourage the flipping of properties.

As well, the plan includes a focus on creating more First Nations, student and social housing.

It’s expected that more details on these specifics will come later.

Rezoning-related legislation

The province plans to introduce legislation in the fall that would allow for small-scale, multi-unit homes like duplexes, triplexes and row houses in neighbourhoods currently zoned single-family residential. While this proposal promises to create what experts call missing middle housing, plans presented are incomplete.

The yet-to-be-announced legislation would allow three, four and possibly more units, if near transit, on lots currently zoned single-family residential. According to a technical briefing prior to the announcement, staff with the Ministry of Housing are still working on those details with the municipalities. While some municipalities are encouraging this type of housing, others are less keen, raising the question of whether the province would use its power to unilaterally rezone all lots zoned single-residential for missing middle housing.

Additional taxes

Equally unclear are plans to expand one existing tax, the speculation and vacancy tax, and create another, the so-called flipping tax.

The speculation and vacancy tax would expand to “additional areas” beyond Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria, parts of the Fraser Valley, Kelowna and West Kelowna and Nanaimo and Lantzville, but staff with the Ministry of Finance are still working on those details, just as they are still working on the details of the proposed flipping tax.

Legalizing secondary suites

Other, perhaps less substantial policy initiatives come with more details. They include plans for the province-wide legalization of secondary suites said to come in the fall and incentives for their creation through a pilot project first promised in the last provincial budget.

The province will subsidize the renovation costs of secondary suites by 50 per cent, to a maximum of $40,000 over five years, through a forgivable loan if homeowners meet all conditions, including renting their units for below market rates for at least five years. The province promises that the project would be open to at least 3,000 homeowners for the first three years.

Other measures touted by the government include direct spending to create 6,000 more affordable homes, 1,750 more on- and off-reserve homes for First Nations by doubling the Indigenous Housing Fund and 4,000 more on-campus student homes on top of the almost 8,000 currently open or underway.

Eby and Kahlon also pledge to create tougher enforcement of rules around short-term rentals and end discriminatory age and rental restrictions in stratas after some families found themselves frozen out of rentals.

In the fall, the province plans to launch BC Builds, a program advised by former Victoria mayor Lisa Help and designed to deliver homes for middle-income people. The public will learn the identity of the chosen municipalities “soon,” according to a technical briefing.

Overall, the plan announced expands on the 10-year, $7-billion Homes for BC plan announced in 2018. It promised to deliver 114,000 new homes in partnership over 10 years. So far, it has created just under 74,688 units. Of the total units, some 42,431 are open, with 17,484 under active construction. Another 14,753 are in planning phase.