B.C. takes three more ‘bold’ steps to fix the housing crisis

Carole James

THE Province said on Monday that it is continuing to take bold action to address both housing demand and supply by cracking down on tax evasion on pre-sale condo assignments, giving local governments the power to protect and encourage the building of rentals, and requiring communities to assess their housing needs.

“For too long, people who resell condos before they have been built have been inflating real estate prices, without necessarily paying taxes on their gains,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “We are making it fairer for people who want to buy a condo, by making sure those who flip pre-sale condos are paying their fair share.”

If approved by the legislature, these changes to the Real Estate Development Marketing Act will require real estate developers to collect and report information on pre-sale condo assignments to ensure people are paying the appropriate taxes when these contracts are assigned. Developers must include terms in their contracts to inform buyers of the new collection and reporting requirements. The information will be reported to the provincial administrator designated under the Property Transfer Tax Act.

Two pieces of legislation have also been introduced, with the aim of helping local governments protect and encourage the building of affordable rental housing, and to respond to the housing needs of their communities.

“Local governments are on the front lines of the housing crisis, so they’re well positioned to guide the right types of housing to meet the needs of their residents,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“There is a shortage of rental homes in British Columbia. The steps we are taking today will both help local governments track the needs of their communities, and give them a powerful tool to deliver homes people can afford in the communities where they work, go to school and raise their families.”

If approved by the legislature, changes to the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter in Bill 23 will:

* Give local governments the authority to limit tenure to rental through the use of a new rental zoning tool. (For example, undeveloped land that is zoned for rental would need to be developed with rental projects. The amount of rental housing that needs to be developed on that land will be at the discretion of the local government.)

* Allow local governments to ensure existing rentals cannot be redeveloped for another use. (For example, if an existing rental building is being considered for redevelopment, and a local government has zoned the building as rental, the new building must be rental to the extent determined by the local government.)

* Where applied, enable developers to know in advance that the permitted tenure will be rental, and if applicable, what portion of a development is required to be rental. (For example, local governments may require that 40% of the units in new multi-family residential buildings in a certain zone be rental.)

The rental zoning authority will be optional for local governments.

A second set of changes to the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter was introduced. If approved by the legislature, Bill 18 will make it mandatory for local governments to conduct housing needs assessments that will assist with community planning. Supported by $5 million in funding over three years from the Province, municipalities will prepare housing needs data reports every five years.

The new legislation responds to a request from local governments for stronger zoning tools to support growth and encourage a healthier rental stock, and will also help ensure that governments have the data needed to produce the appropriate housing solutions for each community.

“Local governments have been looking for tools to protect and enhance the supply of rental homes,” said Union of BC Municipalities President Wendy Booth. “The proposed legislation will facilitate affordable rental development in B.C. communities.”

“Victoria is a renter’s city and, as such, purpose-built rental housing represents a key element of the City of Victoria’s Housing Strategy,” said City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “The ability to use the power of zoning to support the maintenance, expansion and revitalization of this vital housing form offers us an important tool in meeting our affordable housing goals.”

Budget 2018 committed to tackling B.C.’s housing crisis by increasing housing supply, stabilizing the market, closing information gaps and partnering with all levels of government, Indigenous peoples, non-profits, co-ops and the private sector, including the real estate sector, to create the homes that people need throughout British Columbia.

The actions announced today are part of the government’s 30-point housing plan, Homes for B.C.


Quick Fact:

* The B.C. government is investing an additional $1.1 billion over 10 years to upgrade and improve existing rental housing throughout the province. This investment will fund seismic and fire-safety upgrades and essential repairs and maintenance, making homes safer and more comfortable for residents.