Housing
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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

In Eby, municipalities see a potential housing ally

Housing targets for some municipalities will be set next year, premier says. Those that meet them will be rewarded with provincial funding while laggards will be dragged along

By Shannon Waters
November 22, 2022
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

In Eby, municipalities see a potential housing ally

Housing targets for some municipalities will be set next year, premier says. Those that meet them will be rewarded with provincial funding while laggards will be dragged along

By Shannon Waters
Nov 22, 2022
Premier David Eby announced on Monday that housing targets will be set for municipalities next year. Photo: BC Government Flickr
Premier David Eby announced on Monday that housing targets will be set for municipalities next year. Photo: BC Government Flickr
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

In Eby, municipalities see a potential housing ally

Housing targets for some municipalities will be set next year, premier says. Those that meet them will be rewarded with provincial funding while laggards will be dragged along

By Shannon Waters
November 22, 2022
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In Eby, municipalities see a potential housing ally
Premier David Eby announced on Monday that housing targets will be set for municipalities next year. Photo: BC Government Flickr

The BC government is about to get much more hands-on when it comes to housing development.

During his first day as premier in the legislature, David Eby announced legislation that will make good on his pledge to set housing targets for municipalities as early as next year.

He says the legislation is intended to “change the conversation” away from a one-by-one approach to housing decisions by municipalities. That approach results in long, expensive, and uncertain processes for new housing, which, he says, is at the root of the current housing shortage.

“Instead, we're looking at the big picture—how much housing do we need—and then working with cities about how that target is going to be hit,” he said.

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Every five years starting this year, municipalities will have to determine how much housing they need to build. The province will use those numbers—specifically, how far the municipalities are from meeting their housing needs—to determine targets.

Eby emphasized that the province plans to work with municipalities to define and realize their housing targets, including by appointing an advisor to help identify barriers to housing development and recommend solutions.

However, local governments that fail to do their share will face “a series of escalating interventions” by the province. The province hasn’t yet clarified exactly what the penalties will be, but they will culminate in the province overriding local decisions to deny development and rezoning applications.

“My hope is that we never have to use that,” Eby said. “That is not what this bill is about. This bill is about building that framework so we never get to that place.”

The new law “will be paired with a fund to support fast-growing cities that are hitting their targets to make sure that they have the amenities, that they have the infrastructure to make communities livable for the people that live in those cities,” Eby added.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto attended the premier’s announcement and welcomed the legislation as a key step in addressing housing affordability across the spectrum.

“We can't do enough of that, fast enough, alone,” Alto said. “We need the province to support and push us—to push all local governments—to make building more, and more affordable, homes in every neighborhood, in every municipality, across BC.” 

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto. Photo: BC Government Flickr

Alto is confident Victoria council (composed of a majority of pro-housing development councillors) will welcome provincially set housing targets, but the city will not know whether it will have to for months: the province plans to phase-in its use of the housing target legislation, starting with 8-10 municipalities, to be selected by mid-2023.

Alto is hopeful the city will be on that list, noting Victoria has already taken several steps aimed at accelerating and simplifying housing development.

“We have simplified our building processes, and we've got a variety of different housing plans, and processes and policies that accelerate affordability and all that other stuff,” she told Capital Daily. “It seems to me that if the province wanted to have a community that was hopefully likely to be a relatively straightforward one, that they would choose Victoria.”

What say Saanich and Oak Bay?

While Victoria may be ahead of the pack when on housing development, other municipalities already know they have some catching up to do.

Saanich saw new housing completed at less than half the rate needed to bridge the district’s housing gap during 2020 and 2021.

Newly elected Mayor Dean Murdock is keen to kick up the rate of housing development in the district.

“We're a community that will be very eager to get housing created and happy to work with the province as a partner to make that happen more efficiently, and to bring housing to market more quickly,” Murdock told Capital Daily.

Murdock welcomes the province positioning itself as “a willing partner” with municipalities when it comes to housing, and sees the housing needs assessments as a logical place to start acting on supply gaps—“If that's matched with some dollars [from the province], that will help to create greater benefits in our community, along with processes that are going to make it easier and faster to get housing created,” he said.

Murdock would also like to see the province focus on facilitating non-profit housing development, to directly address housing affordability as well as availability.

In Oak Bay, a municipality that’s far behind on its housing needs, Mayor Kevin Murdoch is hoping the province will be transparent about its expectations and metrics for measuring success, and allow municipalities to provide feedback.

“They seem to be saying that they're looking … to work collaboratively with municipalities to reduce barriers to housing being built—I’m 100% on board with that,” he told Capital Daily. “I think that would be most easily achieved and most effectively achieved by being as clear as possible.”

A set of best practices for municipalities to base their housing development and rezoning bylaws on would also be welcome, Murdoch added.

Although Oak Bay is far from a leader when it comes to housing development—in 2020 and 2021, the district built just 37% of the housing it knows it needs—Murdoch said he is not worried about being put on the provincial list next year.

“In the last two years, we have legalized [secondary] suites…enabled up to 6,300 more housing units to be in the community and we are halfway through a very robust infill housing plan to look at these additional infill housing options—everything from townhouses to laneway houses and in between,” he said. 

Targets may miss the mark on much-needed affordability, says advocate

If the aim of the new legislation is to directly address both housing affordability and accessibility, the province will need to specify the types of housing municipalities need to build as well as where those new homes need to go.

“They need to legislate targets for lower income, social housing, and every neighbourhood,” said Nicole Chaland, a housing and homelessness researcher and the City of Victoria’s former homelessness advocate.

Chaland would also like to see the province ask more of municipalities when it comes to evaluating the housing needs of their residents based on income.

It’s much more difficult for people with low incomes to find housing they can afford and Chaland said simply adding to the general housing supply will not necessarily address their needs. 

Source: Filling the Gap: Analytics to support the realization of housing for all in Greater Victoria by Community Social Planning Council

An October 2022 report from the Community Social Planning Council, which Chaland co-authored, suggests that while 3% of households in the Capital Regional District live in substandard housing, 59% of low income households face the same challenge. For households with very low incomes, the figure is 85%.

“The amount of disadvantages faced by female-led, lone-parent households, it's shocking,” Chaland said. “That is where a dramatic amount of housing need is. There needs to be some acknowledgement and strategy for that.”

Source: Filling the Gap: Analytics to support the realization of housing for all in Greater Victoria by Community Social Planning Council

The province may include targets for specific types of housing—including shelters and supportive housing—for individual municipalities, Eby told reporters.

He also suggested adding housing that is affordable for people with higher incomes will lead to trickle-down affordability for those with lower incomes, a theory Chaland is skeptical of.

“Say that exact same thing to the women who are being evicted from transition houses this month because there's nowhere for them to move to. Say that to the person who's tenting on the street,” she challenged the premier. 

“I would never say that to the people that I know who desperately need $500-a-month rent…It's insulting.”

Alto does expect to see affordability metrics included in the housing targets.

“From the perspective of trying to provide useful possibilities—in the sense that you're actually creating homes people need and can actually access—that you'd want to be able to impose some references to affordability,” she said. “If it were otherwise, any municipality could say, ‘You wanted us to build 100 units, we built 100 units,’ but they're all $1.5 million.”

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter

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