Federal budget allocates billions for transit and housing in B.C.

The federal government has reconfirmed a commitment to fund new housing and transit projects in British Columbia. The TransLink Mayor's Council is applauding the federal investment of $2.2 billion in transportation in Metro Vancouver.

Money would cover about 40 per cent of cost of light rail to Surrey and Broadway extension of Millennium Line

TransLink stopped by Surrey City Hall this week to lay out its vision to improve transit service to Clayton Heights and Morgan Crossing. (City of Surrey)

The federal government has reconfirmed a commitment to fund new housing and transit projects in British Columbia in its second budget.

The TransLink Mayor's Council is applauding the federal investment of $2.2 billion in transportation in Metro Vancouver announced in Wednesday's budget.

The money would cover about 40 per cent of what is needed to fund the Surrey LRT and the Broadway extension of the Millennium Line. 

However, the B.C. government must match the federal funding in order for rapid transit projects in Vancouver and Surrey to proceed. 

"With today's federal budget, we are closer than ever to putting shovels in the ground for Surrey LRT and the Broadway subway, so we can move more people around our growing region on transit," said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner. 

"The Mayors' Council is looking forward to working with the provincial government to match the federal investment and have these projects ready to break ground in 2018."

So far, the provincial government has pledged to cover 33 per cent of the costs. The B.C. NDP has promised to match the federal funding and cover 40 per cent of the costs, if elected May 9.

Ride-hailing taxes going up

The federal government is also making other transit-related changes that will have an impact on British Columbia. Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Ottawa is eliminating the transit tax credit. 

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold copies of the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Morneau says the tax break will be phased out on June 30, 2017. Transit passes purchased after that date won't be eligible.

The federal government is also proposing ride-hailing companies charge GST in the same way taxi companies do now. That change could have an impact if companies like Uber start up in British Columbia, which the B.C. Liberals have promised could be as soon as December, if they're elected.

Housing funding up

The federal government has also committed $11.2 billion over 10 years for housing. Kishone Roy, the CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, says the investment will provide greater flexibility for local organizations to create partnerships with municipal, provincial and federal governments. 

"Unfortunately, the crisis here in B.C. is far worse than the rest of the country and that is why the funding is so important," said Kishone Roy, the executive director of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.

"I think the amount of funding in here will help a lot of communities but in B.C. it will take a similar long-term commitment from the provincial government. They may have hinted the money was coming, but there are a lot of promises politicians do not keep."

In September, the B.C. government announced a commitment of $500 million for housing in addition to the $355 million it had already announced in February.