New B.C. housing minister says he plans to rapidly increase housing supply in province
Transparency, accountability needed when it comes to building non-market housing, says expert
Newly-appointed B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says he has plans to hit the ground running to get more homes built in the province.
Premier David Eby gave Kahlon the portfolio during his cabinet announcement, one of the most closely watched in Eby's term.
Eby has made housing announcements one of the central planks of his leadership so far, introducing new laws to remove what the province says are discriminatory age and rental restrictions in stratas, as well as attempting to set local housing targets at the municipal level.
Kahlon says his three main focuses on the job are "speed, supply and synergy," as reports have shown B.C. is the most unaffordable province when it comes to housing.
"Supply means both market housing and non-market housing, and we need to do it in a real hurry," he told CBC News in an interview.
Kahlon promised to release more details on his mandate, which includes a flipping tax, soon.
"We'll refresh our housing strategy early in the New Year and those details will be put out there."
In Kahlon's mandate letter, Eby writes about implementing a "B.C. Builds" program to build housing for middle-income families, establishing a rental housing acquisition fund, and legalizing secondary housing province-wide.
"In two years, we are not going to solve the housing crisis," Kahlon said.
"Our goal is to make a massive shift in the space, bring on as much housing online as we can."
Will Airbnbs be regulated?
The mandate letter also mentions introducing legislation to allow local communities to "better regulate" short-term rental services like Airbnb, which have been blamed for exacerbating the housing crisis.
Cities like Vancouver and Whistler have already moved to restrict the service.
The minister did not say what the legislation would look like, but that he was looking forward to working on it in the new year.
Kahlon also confirmed he's looking into a major NDP policy promise that remains unfulfilled: the $400 renters' rebate promised during the 2017 election.
"The premier's asked us to … figure out how we can structure that rebate [so] that it doesn't actually hurt us on the inflation side," he said. "That is definitely still on the table.
"We're also looking at ways to not only increase rental supply but ensure we maintain the rental supply we have."
Minister needs to collaborate: expert
Andy Yan, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, said the new housing ministry would likely require much collaboration with municipalities and other ministries, specifically when it comes to where new housing supply gets built.
"The second-largest expense for a Canadian household is transportation," Yan told CBC News.
"If you are putting this new supply in areas through which individuals … are going to need cars, I think that that actually doesn't necessarily fix the problem.
"You may indeed ensure a level of housing affordability, but now you have introduced a challenge and a vulnerability when it comes to transportation costs."
He said Kahlon is entering a situation where non-market-housing itself is very rare, something the "B.C. Builds" program seeks to change.
"I think it's critical to be transparent, accountable and effective [with B.C. Builds] in terms of open data and what are they building," Yan said.
"It's really, I think, important that this doesn't just become just a raw unit count."
The new minister would also need to work with the federal government to hash out a comprehensive Indigenous housing strategy, he added, and consider preservation and protection — especially when it comes to the risk of displacement when building housing for people who earn less than $70,000.
In light of new immigration targets, which will drive B.C.'s future growth, new housing also needs to be culturally adaptive and factor in the prospect of multi-generational homes and habits, Yan said.
"That's an important element to understand — the changing face of British Columbia."
- This story has been updated to correctly attribute a quote about rental restrictions to the B.C. government.Dec 24, 2022 2:07 PM PT
With files from Cory Correia and Bridgette Watson
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