Today in the legislature I rose to question the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing about the government’s apparent inaction on the affordability file. When I attended the Union of BC Municipalities 2017 convention last week I heard the Premier give his address to delegates. In it he once more focused only on the supply side of the affordability crisis. But there are also problems on the demand side.
As I have argued for four years, there is a glaring tax loophole that needs to be closed. This Bare Trust loophole incentivizes speculation, discourages transparency and encourages property tax avoidance.
Below I reproduce the video and text of my question period exchange with the Minister. I also reproduce the media release we put out today.
I was not statisfied with the response to my questions. Over the coming weeks we’ll continue to pressure the government to deliver on their commitment to clamp down on rampant real estate speculation in British Columbia.
A. Weaver: It seems fitting that I rise and ask a question after this.
Last week, at the UBCM, the Premier took a page out of the B.C. Liberals’ failed strategy to deal with Metro Vancouver’s housing crisis. “We need more supply,” he proclaimed to the delegates. Once more our government has missed the glaring problems on the demand side. Where is their promised speculation tax? Where are the so many other steps that they said they would do and that they would take during the election campaign? And why, after I raised it here in the Legislature almost four years ago, has this government not yet closed a loophole that incentivizes speculation, discourages transparency and encourages property tax avoidance?
My question through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is this: why haven’t you already closed the bare trust loophole — a loophole so big you could drive a bus through it — and ensure that the property tax is applied on the transfer of beneficial ownership and not just the transfer of title?
Hon. S. Robinson: I want to thank the member down the way for the question.
It’s really important that, when we take a look at the housing crisis — a crisis that rose under the previous government that did nothing, that just pretended like it was not an issue….
Hon. S. Robinson: Let’s be really clear. They were saying: “If you don’t like it, move to Fort St. John.” People have been really struggling.
Mr. Speaker: Members, please, we shall hear the response.
Hon. S. Robinson: It’s really important that….
Hon. S. Robinson: I’ve got nothing against Fort St. John, but I don’t like the government telling me where to live.
It’s really important that when we talk about putting together a comprehensive, affordable strategy, a comprehensive housing strategy, that addresses all of the pieces — the supply side and the demand side — that we take a look at all those levers and all the tools at our disposal, that we make sure that they work together. That’s what comprehensive means, and we need to take our time to get it right.
It’s really important. This is too important to really mess up, so we need to make sure that we’ve got it right. I’m really excited that it is coming in short order.
A. Weaver: Please let me remind you that when the Attorney General was in opposition, he was a very fierce critic of the B.C. Liberal housing policy or lack of a policy on affordability. Indeed, a year ago he told Reddit, the readers of Reddit: “We need to eliminate what’s called the bear trust loophole in the property transfer tax where these properties can transfer without property transfer tax paid. It’s costing us literally hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions that could be used for affordable housing initiatives.”
It’s a straightforward fix. All we have to do is what Ontario has already done years ago. We don’t need to rediscover the wheel, and there is no excuse for a delay.
My question through you to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is this: what’s the holdup? You’ve had many years in opposition identifying problems, and you’ve had many years to identify solutions. The Attorney General has identified those solutions, said he’d do it. It’s a quick fix. Why haven’t you done it?
Hon. S. Robinson: I’m grateful that, with the help of member down the way, we’ll have 4½ years to get this work done. And I look forward to that work.
After ten weeks here in government, we have acted on a promise to increase funding for the residential tenancy branch. We are preparing to close unfair loopholes that allow landlords to bypass rent control, something that the previous minister said was rather complicated, which we learned was actually not that complicated.
We’ve announced the creation of 2,000 units of modular housing with wraparound services. We also announced 1,700 unit of affordable housing throughout the province.
That’s in ten weeks. Just think about what we are going to get done in 4½ years.
Weaver presses B.C. NDP to commit to demand-side housing reforms
For immediate release
October 3, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, today questioned housing Minister Selina Robinson on the B.C. NDP government’s intentions to take action to cool the housing market.
“Last week at UBCM the Premier indicated that his government’s solution to the problem of housing affordability is to simply add more supply,” Weaver said.
“Once more our government has missed the glaring problems on the demand side. When in opposition, Minister Eby was a fierce critic of the government’s failure to act, and argued that the bare trust loophole costs British Columbia hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used for affordable housing initiatives. The government can take action immediately to close the bare trust loophole that incentivizes speculation, discourages transparency and encourages property tax avoidance.
“The B.C. Greens are committed to proposing bold solutions to the affordable housing crisis that is facing so many communities. I have previously called for the non-resident foreign buyer’s tax to be extended to the entire province, as communities from Victoria to Nelson face a housing crunch. I have also called for a ban on foreign ownership of ALR land over five acres, in order to stem speculation and protect British Columbia’s food security.
“The purpose of housing should be to provide homes for British Columbians – not a commodity that is wide open to international speculation. The B.C. Greens will continue to propose bold, actionable solutions to the housing affordability crisis that is uprooting so many communities across our province. As an opposition caucus, we will continue to push government to take action so that no British Columbian is faced with the terrible reality of being priced out of their own community due to real estate speculation.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
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