Premier David Eby plans to tackle the province’s housing crisis by working with municipalities to streamline approval processes and removing restrictions from strata-run buildings.
The former housing minister announced his plan on Monday (Nov. 21), just three days after being sworn in as premier, with a proposed Housing Supply Act and amendments to the Strata Property Act.
If passed, the Housing Supply Act will give the province a far more hands-on role in determining what municipalities need to do to increase housing and what timeline they must accomplish it under. It builds off the Housing Needs Reports B.C. introduced in 2019, which municipalities are required to submit every five years to report on their local housing situation.
Under the new act, the minister responsible for housing — Attorney General Murray Rankin — will use those reports, along with community plans and census data, to determine which municipalities have the highest projected growth and greatest housing needs. Those municipalities will be required to work hand-in-hand with the housing minister to develop targets on areas including rentals and affordable and social housing.
If targets aren’t met, the minister will have the power to issue directives and recommend compliance measures.
“My hope is that we never have to use that,” Eby said. “It does have teeth and it needs to have teeth to ensure we reach these goals.”
If passed, the Housing Supply Act will come into effect in mid-2023, at which point an initial eight to 10 municipalities will be selected to work with the province and set annual housing targets. The province said it will provide a more clear timeline of next steps at that point.
More immediately, the province is hoping to pass changes to the Strata Property Act. Under the updated act, stratas will no longer be allowed to restrict residents based on their age or whether they have children. Only strata-run buildings for people ages 55 and older will be exempt from the new measures.
Stratas will also have to end restrictions on how many units in a building can be rented at once and for how long. They will, however, still be allowed to ban short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs.
Eby said they estimate about 300,000 strata units are currently covered by those restrictions, 2,900 of which have applied for a vacancy tax exemption.
If passed, these changes will come into effect immediately.
Noticeably absent from the announcements were some of the promises Eby campaigned on earlier this year, such as a $500-million rental-housing fund for non-profits to buy buildings, a tax on flipping homes and a plan to allow home builders in urban centres to replace single-family homes with three units instead.
Eby said those ideas are still on the table, but require further work before they can be brought into reality.