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

What does the NDP leadership race mean for housing affordability?

Anjali Appadurai and David Eby have both made tackling the housing crisis central parts of the leadership bids

By Shannon Waters
August 24, 2022
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

What does the NDP leadership race mean for housing affordability?

Anjali Appadurai and David Eby have both made tackling the housing crisis central parts of the leadership bids

By Shannon Waters
Aug 24, 2022
Photos: Anjali Appadurai, David Eby
Photos: Anjali Appadurai, David Eby
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

What does the NDP leadership race mean for housing affordability?

Anjali Appadurai and David Eby have both made tackling the housing crisis central parts of the leadership bids

By Shannon Waters
August 24, 2022
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What does the NDP leadership race mean for housing affordability?
Photos: Anjali Appadurai, David Eby

By the end of the year, BC will have a new premier as longtime Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan—who led the BC NDP since 2014 and the province since 2017—steps aside.

In the weeks following Horgan’s June 28 announcement, it looked like former attorney general and housing minister David Eby might succeed the two-term premier uncontested. Eby officially launched his leadership bid on July 19, quickly secured support from 48 of his 57 caucus colleagues, and appeared well on his way to being acclaimed the province’s next premier.

Enter Anjali Appadurai, a climate action organizer and former federal NDP candidate, who threw her hat in the ring on Aug. 10 and made an NDP leadership race a reality.

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While he is still widely considered the frontrunner, Eby—who comes from an activism background with stints at Pivot Legal and the BC Civil Liberties Association—now finds himself the establishment candidate, having served as MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey since 2013 and an NDP cabinet minister since 2017.

“To be someone who has been outside the system for the vast majority of my career … it's an interesting spot,” Eby said.

While party leadership races don’t usually delve as deeply into policy issues as election campaigns, both Eby and Appadurai have emphasized that addressing the housing crisis will be a priority for them should they become the next premier of BC.

Affordability issues in Greater Victoria are forcing residents to make tough choices about where they live and work, including Saanich councillor Rebecca Mersereau, who is planning to leave the province in pursuit of more life balance and lower housing costs. And while the real estate market has cooled recently, the region has not seen the significant drop in housing prices other Canadian cities have experienced. Meanwhile, rental prices have actually increased.

It’s a complex issue that Eby knows well, having served as housing minister since 2020. During that time, he’s seen municipalities across the province grapple with housing affordability in various ways and has not been shy when it comes to weighing on what he’s seen.

With his support for Victoria’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative (MMHI) on record, Eby told Capital Daily he is “frustrated by the turn” the debate on the issue has taken, especially “the generational divide” that can become apparent during public debate on housing policy.

“There's agreement on the need for additional housing options among younger people and among older people,” Eby said. 

“There's just no way around the math of growing communities like those in the [Capital Regional District] …and even communities that haven't seen growth for a long time, like Prince Rupert,” he added. “We are seeing a huge number of people come in, we're seeing lots of jobs and opportunity, and housing is essential infrastructure.”

Policies like MMHI have the potential to benefit people who own their homes just as much as those who rent, Eby maintains.

“I do think that homeowners have a lot to gain from this kind of reform,” he said. “It gives them an option—if their life circumstances change, they don't have to move out of their communities.” 

“A bunch of housing options in the neighborhood actually creates the possibility of building a stronger community, it doesn't weaken it.”

For Appadurai, addressing housing affordability should be part of BC’s response to the climate emergency.

“They go hand in hand,” she told Capital Daily. “Last year in the heatwave, we saw 600 people die and 90% of them … died in their homes, which just really points to the fact that housing needs to be built differently in the context of the climate emergency, and that it's deeply inadequate the way that is now—it's letting down our most vulnerable folks.”

Across Greater Victoria, 24 people died during the 2021 heat dome, according to the BC coroner’s report.

Overhauling the way housing is built should be “part of a broader package of reforms” aimed at addressing the impact of climate change, according to Appadurai, with a focus on increased “investment in the public sphere” and “massive investment in public housing.”

Pouring public money into housing is something Eby and Appadurai—who said her opponent “has a really great vision for housing” in BC—agree on.

Eby feels “a huge amount of urgency” to create “attainable middle-class housing” because of “the threat” its absence poses to the BC economy and its impact on “the confidence of younger people that they can stay in the province,” as well as “the ability to operate schools and hospitals.”

BC needs to build nearly one million homes over the next decade in order to make housing affordable, according to a recent report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Future housing needs vary across Greater Victoria, according to assessments done by each municipality at the province’s behest. Saanich needs to create 610 new dwellings per year over the next five years while North Saanich will need just 49.

The pace of housing development also varies by community with Langford and View Royal building more than double the housing required to address identified needs, while Saanich, Central Saanich, and Oak Bay did not even hit the halfway mark.

Highly anticipated legislation from the NDP government this fall will likely send a “strong message about minimum expectations in terms of cities and the approval of housing,” according to Eby, who teased the upcoming bill for several months as housing minister before his leadership bid forced him to give up his cabinet responsibilities.

The provincial legislation will “be really positive news,” Eby believes, with the potential to “shift the conversation” about housing approvals at the municipal level from a piecemeal approach to a more holistic discussion about local housing needs and the impact of failing to meet them.

It will also “only be a preliminary step of much more work to be done” with the new crop of mayors and councillors following municipal elections.

“They will be able to look at housing in a different way—more in the nature of pipes or wires or roads [and] just thinking about whether we have enough to serve the demand from our community,” said Eby.

Article Author's Profile Picture
Shannon Waters
Municipal affairs reporter

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