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B.C. housing plan could see 293,000 new units over next decade, says report

Premier David Eby announces legislation that will return short-term rentals to long-term homes for people during a press conference in the rotunda at the legislature Victoria, on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. File photo by The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito

The New Democrat government’s ambitious home-building agenda could result in up to 293,000 new housing units over the next decade, according to a government-commissioned report highlighted Thursday by Premier David Eby.

Eby told a British Columbia Chamber of Commerce luncheon every community across the province needs more homes, and not just single-family homes.

“We need townhomes. We need triplexes. We need multi-units,” he said. “The idea that the single-family home is the only thing you can build with a simple building permit means that the only kind of housing that people are inclined to build are single-family homes.”

Eby said the government passed a series of bills this fall to tackle the province-wide housing crisis and increase the amount of affordable homes and rental properties.

“The time for strong action on housing is well past, and we are taking action,” he said. “With less than a one-per-cent vacancy rate across the province, we had to take action.”

The government’s housing legislation will restrict short-term rentals, provide more density on single-family lots, relax restrictive building permitting processes and increase housing density at public transit areas.

The premier cited a 201-page report that projected the government’s housing legislation, particularly in relation to multi-unit projects and transit-oriented developments, could result in between 216,000 and 293,000 new units over the next decade.

“We have retained some esteemed economists to do some modelling for us on the legislation that went forward, and they advise us that … on their projections, (there will be) the net new addition of 250,000 new units in the next decade,” said Eby.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said B.C. was previously planning to build 130,000 new units over the next decade.

B.C. housing plan could deliver 293,000 new units over next decade, says report. #BCPoli #Housing

The report also projected lower rents and home prices over five years.

“The additional 44,000 to 54,000 net growth in dwellings over five years estimated by our model would result in six per cent to 12 per cent lower prices and rents than what they would have been without the provincial legislation,” said the report.

The legislation is expected to impact rent and home prices over the next decade, but that will “vary substantially depending on demand growth scenarios,” said the report.

It said the estimates are consistent with the results from observing housing reforms similar to B.C.’s previously introduced in Auckland, New Zealand, the report said.

Eby said the government delivered regulations and policy manuals to local governments on Thursday, to guide their work on local housing initiatives.

“It’s the fine print,” he said.

Among the details are outlines for 104 transit-oriented development areas in 31 B.C. municipalities

The regulations for short-term rental restrictions define what constitutes a principal residence, lists communities where the principal residency requirement applies and details exemptions from the principal-residency rules, the Ministry of Housing said in a statement.

Local governments can request to opt out of the principal-residency requirement if the community has a rental vacancy rate of three per cent or more for three consecutive years, said the ministry.

The new eased zoning regulations to spur multi-housing units include requirements to update zoning bylaws to allow more units to be built on properties, the ministry said.

B.C. opposition parties have criticized the government for using its majority in the legislature to limit debate on its housing agenda.

Green house Leader Adam Olsen said it appears the government had the housing modelling information when the legislature was sitting, but chose to cut off debate last week and release the information Thursday.

“Releasing these documents with no briefing, no press conference, no accountability confirms for me the BC NDP are hiding critical information and accountability,” he said in a statement. “The changes are significant and will impact communities for decades.”

A Vancouver housing advocacy group said forcing more density development at transit zones is welcome but “low-hanging fruit” compared to the housing crisis facing the city.

“There are areas near some SkyTrain stations that are zoned only for low-density housing, even decades after the stations opened,” Abundant Housing Vancouver director Peter Waldkirch said in a statement. “This is a clear failure of municipal planning, and we’re glad to see the province stepping in and putting an end to this sort of irrational land use.”

He said he’s hopeful the legislation and regulations will also result in more rental properties and multi-unit developments in Vancouver’s west side.

“Despite proximity to jobs and amenities, much of Vancouver’s wealthy west side remains off-limits for renters and anyone who can’t afford a detached house,” he said. “We hope that this is just the start of provincial housing action and more bus stops get added to the regulations soon.”

By Dirk Meissner in Victoria

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2023

Dirk Meissner
Dirk Meissner
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