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andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

When will the BC Government start dealing with our housing crisis?

Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I took the opportunity to continue pressuring the government to commit to demand-side housing reforms.

Housing affordability is the single most pressing issue facing British Columbians. As mentioned in the exchange below, I’ve sat through question period for the last two months and have yet to hear any questions of substance from the BC Liberals on this topic.

I’m not entirely happy with the response to my supplemental question and will continue to pressure government to deal with speculation in our real estate sector.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: The single biggest issue facing British Columbians today is the issue of housing affordability. I’ve now sat in this question period for a full two months, and I’ve yet to hear anything of substance in question period from members opposite. As a consequence….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: As a consequence, please let me pick up the file.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Member, if you could please be seated for a moment.

Members, I’m not sure this is a productive use of the time in the House here.

Member, please continue.

A. Weaver: As a consequence, I’ll pick up the file.

The B.C. Liberals introduced the B.C. home owner mortgage and equity partnership in early 2017. The then opposition housing critic and now Attorney General called the program “completely bizarre,” and he said: “It’s an incredibly poorly thought-out policy.” And he further noted our provincial government’s — that’s the previous government — response is to encourage people to take on more debt and subsidize the debt. It’s bizarre, he said.

I agree, and so does Evan Siddall, the president and CEO of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, who said this: “Programs that support demand in supply-constrained markets like Vancouver serve primarily to increase prices and make the affordability problem worse.”

In reference to the stated goal of the program and the program and making houses more affordable, he stated: “I’m joined by loud chorus of economists in insisting that it will do the exact opposite.”

My question is this. When will this government eliminate the program, which nothing more than incentivize British Columbians to take on more debt than they can afford, a reckless incentive particularly when the interest rates are rising, as they have twice already this year?


Answer


Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the question. I think, as the member pointed out, after 16 years of ignoring the housing crisis in British Columbia, there’s a lot of work that has to be done.

I’m very proud of the first steps we took — in less than two months after being sworn in, in government — in our budget update by announcing funding for 1,700 affordable housing units and 2,000 modular housing units.

We’ve also added resources to the residential tenancy branch to support good landlords and good tenants in the work that they do.

We’ve also improved information sharing with the homeowner grant and the Income Tax Act to look at speculation and how we address the speculation.

On the member’s specific question around the B.C. partnership program. It is being looked at as part of the budget. The member will know from the budget update that the amount of money has been reduced in that program, because the previous government predicted about $700 million over three years as usage. We have reduced that by $500 million because the program has been underutilized because of the concerns that the member has raised. So this is being looked at as part of the budget process.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: The members opposite seem to think that if I don’t hurl a character assassination at government, it’s a softball question, as opposed to a question dealing with real issues facing British Columbians.

Yesterday, Global News noted New Zealand’s approach to tackle their housing crisis and clamp down on offshore ownership and speculation. The story included a very disturbing comment attributed to government: “Foreign ownership of homes is not being considered as part of the budget 2018 planning.”

There’s a lot of foreign capital out there looking for a safe place to park money in these tumultuous times. Foreign investors have turned to our real estate sector, thereby turning our houses and land into commodities for investing in speculation, not living in or working on. Our residents are paying a social cost, as they can’t afford to live in the places that they work.

Yesterday I also received an email from a rural farm and ranch realtor who had been approached on behalf of a limited company based in Hong Kong looking to purchase 35,000 acres of farmland in British Columbia. The stories are never ending.

This government continues to focus on the supply side of housing. When will this government step in to clamp down on foreign money flooding into our real estate sector and agricultural markets like other jurisdictions have done internationally?


Answer


Hon. C. James: Thanks to the member for the questions and the ideas and the solutions to take a look at speculation and closing loopholes. Stay tuned for more information this afternoon around one piece of that.

I’m working with the Minister of Housing. We’re working together on both the demand and supply side. It is critical, as the member has pointed out, that we look at both pieces.

The member will know that tax measures are not talked about before the budget comes out so that we ensure that people don’t utilize tax information to their own personal benefit. That will come out as part of the February budget.

I can assure the member that speculative issues are being looked at — how we close the loopholes. It’s all part of a comprehensive housing strategy that we are going to be proud to table and proud to implement in this province.

12 Comments

  1. NDP has done nothing-Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Good job Mr. Weaver. I’m centre right but I’m tired of seeing all my friends move away from BC to Alberta or out east because they can’t afford to live here any longer. The NDP seems completely focused on renters which I agree is important but without people being able to buy places here and put down roots, Vancouver will die and businesses will not be able to grow. My company can’t attract talent from anywhere outside Vancouver because no one can afford to live here except offshore money looking to park it in real estate.

    I voted NDP for the first time in my life on this issue alone and I’m shocked they have done absolutely nothing on affordability which is the number 1 issue facing BC. I can’t and the people of BC can’t wait any longer…Thanks for pressing them on this issue as well as ride sharing which is way over due in this city.

  2. Valentine Wu-Reply
    November 2, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    I have let my friends and supporters, especially in Chinese Canadian communities know that you are fighting for us on housing issue.

    Thanks a lot!
    Merci beaucoup!
    万分感谢!

    Valentine Wu

  3. Diane Felske-Reply
    November 1, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you Andrew.

    David Eby was my go to guy for housing but he has been stifled. He should have been given that portfolio.
    Glad you have taken the reins.

    The only answer to this housing crisis is stop selling off our homes to foreign investors who are not permanent residents or Canadian citizens. Our farmland must be saved to. This a housing and food security disaster. Also have the Federal government look into tax loopholes and more investigation with money laundering. Stop the downward spiral of our Province.

  4. Sellina-Reply
    October 28, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Thanks Weaver!

    Its pretty disgusting the NDP are no different than the smug liberals once in power. Their tones change and promises get tossed in the trash. They pick at the easy no real impact issues and start bragging. To drag it 7 months with no announcement or agenda to look at housing or even act on their promises.

    Can you imagine having to bid all your savings just to get food or water or air? Housing should be a right and not an investment.

    Ban or tax heavily owning more than 1 home – theres a supply issue.

    Locals are flipping now.. tax heavily on reselling.

    Tax on condo assignments or ban it. Developers have too much control of this city.

  5. Vancouverite-Reply
    October 28, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Many of us voted the NDP in to help fix the Housing Crisis. If New Zealand can make it a law to prevent foreign ownership, so can BC and the rest of Canada. If the NDP cannot do the job, and/or are in cahoots with those foreign buyers, then we would need a new party who are more effective and stern against foreign ownership.

  6. Dan-Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Andrew – you have earned my respect!
    My family had traditionally voted Liberal. We are financially secured but we fear for the housing future of our grand children. For their sake, we voted for the NDP, entirely for the purpose of changing how housing is managed under the Liberals. We now realized that we should have voted for the Greens. You earned out vote for the next election. Thank you!

  7. Alissa-Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Table a bill of their election promises in regards to housing verbatim then see how they respond.

  8. Ann-Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I am so happy to know that you are pushing for this issue to be addressed NOW. Keep it up. You speak for so many of us.

  9. YVR expat-Reply
    October 27, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Mr Weaver, thank you for bringing this up in the legislature.

    The Greens have tipped the balance of power in the NDP’s favour via a coalition. You can bring the current government down if it does not substantively deal with the housing crisis in its next budget.

    Foreign money (not foreigners), loopholes in the FB tax, campaign donations at the municipal level, and other structural issues are a true blight on Vancouver. The misery of our housing prevents innovation.

    If the Greens are seen to let the NDP pass a budget that soft-pedals on what you yourself have called BC’s greatest issue at present, the Greens too will be seen as having let down British Columbians.

    BC is so currupt. It’s the new Quebec. Thank you for your part in changing party finance rules at the provincial level. New Zealand is getting serious about its crisis, but it takes political bravery. You can bring down this government if it breaks its promises on housing.

  10. Alex-Reply
    October 26, 2017 at 11:45 pm

    What a bunch of non-committal non-answers. We’re paying almost $2,000 a month to rent a roof over our heads and no way we or our children will be able to compete for real estate against untaxed foreign money, and they’re making it sound like building a handful of temporary shelters for homeless is a solution. Ban owner ownership and STR or at least tax it through the nose and use money to give tax breaks to honest local taxpayers.

  11. Pete Pallett-Reply
    October 26, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Thank-you for your understanding and your diligence, Andrew.

  12. Reality Check-Reply
    October 26, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Banning foreign ownership should NOT be framed as “closing a loophole”! The NDP gvmt needs to understand that NDP voters WANT the same regulations as New Zealand! WORD FOR WORD copy their legislation and timeline! Do it NOW! *Not* in the coming year! We want action NOW. I voted NDP *precisely* because they promised to end the speculation and foreign ownership. I’m a ONE issue voter, and THAT is it!

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