British Columbia

Scope of housing commitment 'misunderstood,' premier says

B.C. Premier John Horgan says election pledge of new housing referred to ‘continuum’ of supply, including private market developments, not just subsidized or affordable homes.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says election pledge included market housing, not just subsidized developments

B.C. Premier John Horgan spoke to reporters outside legislative chamber after the opening of the legislature Tuesday. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

B.C. Premier John Horgan says his party's election promise to address the affordable housing shortage with construction of 114,000 new homes across the province has been misunderstood.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC On the Island host Gregor Craigie, Horgan responded to questions about whether the NDP government is on track with its May 2017 platform pledge to "build 114,000 rental and co-op homes" over 10 years.

Tuesday's throne speech outlining the government's intentions referred to more modest numbers: 2,000 units of modular housing and 1,700 affordable units approved for construction last year.

"The plan certainly is to continue on with the goal over 10 years to get to 114,000 units," Horgan said. "That's again not just social housing."

"I think people misunderstood that, and we tried as hard as we could to correct that. It's the continuum of housing. What you would find in a community."

The B.C. government's throne speech highlighted efforts to create 2,000 units of modular housing for homeless people, such as the two buildings for 78 residents in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood. (CBC)

Speaking to reporters after the government's throne speech Tuesday, Horgan also expanded on his housing commitment, saying it includes not just affordable housing but incentives for private developers to build family housing "that British Columbians want to move into."

Horgan told Craigie his fast-growing home riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca is an example of  "extraordinary" success in increasing housing supply.

Meanwhile, the premier acknowledged that the dispute with Alberta over the B.C. government's proposal to restrict diluted bitumen shipments to the port of Vancouver could affect the province's negotiations with Ottawa over support for housing initiatives and child care.

Chill in B.C.-Ottawa relations?

"We had until very recently a very positive working relationship with the federal government," Horgan said. 

He said an agreement on child-care funding was reached after discussions with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the signing ceremony has been delayed. 

"I don't want to put the two issues together, but certainly there is consternation in Ottawa that the governments in B.C. and Alberta are at a fundamental disagreement," he said.

Horgan said he continues to believe the B.C. government has the right to review the science on bitumen spills and stand up for the province's interests.

However, he said a suggestion that a question could be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling on the province's jurisdiction "may well be the best outcome."

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Island .