British Columbia

John Horgan speaks to development community today on housing affordability

For the first time since taking power, B.C. Premier John Horgan is meeting with the largest group representing B.C.'s development community.

No announcements planned, but UDI president hoping for concrete steps to increase supply in Metro Vancouver

Condo towers, including one under construction, right, are seen in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday August 15, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

For the first time since taking power, B.C. Premier John Horgan is meeting with the largest group representing B.C.'s development community.

Horgan will be speaking to the Urban Development Institute at 12:30 p.m., along with Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson, to give real estate developers "an update on their first 100 days in government and future plans to address housing affordability and transit priorities."

"We're very delighted. We're B.C.'s largest industry. It would make sense for the minister to come to the UDI, as well as the premier," said UDI president Anne McMullin. 

No specific announcements are planned, according to the premier's office, but McMullin is hopeful the government talks about what steps it might take on increasing the supply of housing in the Lower Mainland. 

During the 2017 election, the party promised to build 114,000 rental, social, co-op and owner purchase residential units over 10 years.

"I think it's way too lofty of a goal ... but certainly, even if we can get part of that, to raise the vacancy rate to one or two per cent, we're going to need to build eight to 10 thousand rental units a year. So, we need more supply of rental," she said. 

​Weaver: 'you need to take steps now'

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver also said he believed Horgan would discuss supply-side issues with the UDI.

"He'll continue to push his agenda, which was to deliver 114,000 affordable units in the years to come. He'll need co-operaton from the development community as well as municipalities on that," he said.

While Weaver was complimentary of government changes to rental policies, he said it had been "average" on supply issues and was critical of its lack of movement in tamping speculation in the region's real estate market. 

The market does need to be corrected. We have a generation of people, the millennials, who will never be able to afford a place to live, and the market needs to be tempered ...The reality is, you need to take really, really significant steps now. It's out of control," he said.

"We're seeing a lot of money parked here, in our housing and rental and land stock ... in order to  protect money and look for capital gains. That is not what housing is for. It's for living in." 

Geographic challenges

Six weeks ago, Horgan acknowledged his party was taking longer than expected to put forward policies to deal with housing affordability.

"Housing is a critical component of many people's equity and their retirement prospects, and we want to make sure we don't adversely affect the marketplace," he said. 

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University's City Program, says the government has good reasons to take things slowly. 

"You think about how the foreign buyers tax was pretty much developed in two months. That may not be a particular great policy avenue to pursue ... given the kind of impact it did or did not have."

"​They're trying to think carefully about what might be a set a policies that could work throughout the vastly different geographies of the province." 

McMullin said it's good the province is taking time to speak with all groups, including developers, before unveiling any large plans. 

"They've said they're in the middle of developing a comprehensive strategy ... this is part of what they need to do, to consult," she said. 

"I'm not an anticipating an announcement per se but demonstrating that this is an important industry and an important stakeholder group."