Over the last few months my caucus colleagues, legislative staff and I undertook extensive research and consultation as we developed our housing policy priorities for input into the Budget 2018 consultation process. Today we released the results of our analysis during a press conference at the Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver. Entitled Seeking Bold Action: Housing Priorities for Budget 2018, our policies place an emphasis on curbing speculation and the role of global capital in our housing market.
The affordability crisis is devastating communities across our province. In particular, despite significant evidence of the role of speculation in driving up prices, successive governments have failed to act on the demand side.
In February the NDP Government will table their first full budget. They have a critical opportunity in front of them to take real action on housing affordability and protect the future for people of all ages and demographics in our cities.
Developing constructive solutions to the affordability crisis has been our top priority and we have already communicated our suggestions directly to government.
Below I reproduce my opening remarks at the press conference along with a copy of our press release.
Today, I’m pleased to release a document outlining our priorities for action from this government on housing affordability.
In February the NDP Government will table their first full budget. They have a critical opportunity in front of them to take real action on housing affordability.
British Columbians have waited for action on this file from government for far too long.
People have watched as years of government inaction have allowed house prices to spiral out of control, as neighbourhoods empty and people are forced to make huge sacrifices to live in our cities.
This must not be allowed to continue. We need bold action now to tackle this crisis and make our cities vibrant, welcoming, and affordable.
Houses are not commodities – like gold or potash – which can be bought, sold, and traded exclusively for profit.
Homes are where people live, and they are the centre of our communities.
Yet our province is turning into a playground for the wealthy and our real estate a bank account for the wealthy.
Our cities have become a place for speculators to park their capital and reap huge returns, while ordinary British Columbians struggle to find a suitable place to live.
The skyrocketing price of real estate is precluding young people and families from buying homes in our cities.
Sky-high rents and near 0% vacancy levels in several communities are forcing renters to contend with huge competition, and to live in cramped and unaffordable accommodation.
As a result, young people are finding it increasingly difficult to see a future for themselves in our cities.
Small businesses in our cities are struggling to make rent, pay their property taxes and attract workers.
I’ve heard from many industries, especially our growing tech sector, that are struggling to attract and retain talent, because people can’t afford to live in our cities.
This is becoming a threat to our economy and must be fixed.
in January, an Insights West Survey found that 50% of British Columbians said that housing, homelessness and poverty was the #1 issue in BC. That’s up from 36% in August, and 14% in 2015.
Yesterday, a poll released by Angus Reid found that half of British Columbians want to see the housing market cooled. Just 14%, and just 1 in 5 existing homeowners, want to see prices continue to climb.
As part of our agreement with the NDP, we have the opportunity to share our priorities with them through budget consultations.
In this document, we summarize our input into the consultations and outline our priorities on housing affordability.
First and foremost, we want to see government take strong steps to curb speculation and restrict the impact of global capital on our housing market.
There is a great deal of evidence that foreign money is having a significant impact on our housing market, driving up prices well beyond what local incomes can afford.
Moreover, both global and domestic speculators are treating our houses as commodities to be bought, sold and traded exclusively for profit. They are reaping huge gains and pricing out people with average incomes who live and work in our cities.
But despite this, the provincial government has been hesitant to take action on global demand or on speculation. We think this needs to change with this budget.
When businesses can’t hire employees, when students are forced to shell out $800 a month to live in a tiny room, when our young people can’t see a future for themselves here, we need to realize that we are in an emergency.
Let’s take action to ensure that our houses are for homes first.
We believe that a crucial action government should take is to restrict the foreign purchasing of property in BC.
People who don’t live, work, and pay taxes here should be prohibited from purchasing existing property here. We can follow the lead of a number of other jurisdictions around the world, like New Zealand, that have done exactly this.
We also want to see government implement a speculators tax that targets absentee owners who own property in BC but do not pay adequate income taxes here. If the NDP does not pursue restrictions on foreign ownership, it is critically important that they include a speculator’s tax like this in this budget.
Government should levy a tax on flipping, to discourage the rapid flipping of property for profit, which drives up prices and adds no value to communities.
This government needs to take steps to protect the ALR from the impacts of speculation, including restricting the foreign ownership of ALR land and working with local governments to limit house sizes.
And we want to see loopholes closed that allow people to avoid paying taxes, including the bare trust loophole and ensuring that the foreign buyers tax applies to purchases of ALR land, partnerships, and pre-sales.
Our second priority is ensuring that we free up existing supply and ensure that new supply meets the needs of average British Columbians, not wealthy speculators.
A key part of achieving this goal is working with and empowering local governments to tackle the crisis, with the support of the province.
The province should work with local governments to regulate and restrict short-term rentals, to to encourage property owners to return units to the long-term rental supply.
The province should give all local governments the ability to tax empty homes, like they’ve done for the City of Vancouver, to discourage absentee ownership and raise revenues at the municipal level for housing initiatives.
And, the province should help local governments rethink zoning to increase the right kind of supply.
We also want to ensure that government deals with the impacts of the crisis on British Columbians in a responsible way, that does not put further inflationary effects on the market.
The irresponsible and risky BC HOME partnership should be repealed, and assistance to renters should be means-tested, streamlined and effective, to ensure help is going to those who need it most.
Finally, it is critical that government improve data collection and transparency, disseminate to support decision-making and to crack down on tax evasion and fraud.
The scale of this crisis requires bold, decisive action if we are to make our cities livable and affordable.
Our cities should be places where people can afford to live where they work:
This is the kind of society we should be building, and we will continue to pressure government to ensure that they deliver.
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, released a summary of his Caucus’ housing policy priorities today in Vancouver. The Party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. NDP commits both parties to collaborate to make housing more affordable by increasing supply and dealing with the role of speculation and fraud. The policy document released today is a summary of the B.C. Green Caucus’ recommendations to government for the upcoming provincial budget.
“The affordability crisis is devastating communities across our province,” said Weaver. “In particular, despite significant evidence of the role of speculation in driving up prices, government has failed to act on the demand side. Our policies place an emphasis on curbing speculation and the role of global capital in our housing market.
“British Columbians have awaited action for far too long. It is time to move past rhetoric and get to work delivering solutions. We are putting forth realistic, evidence-based policies so that our consultations in this minority government are more transparent, and so that we can keep the pressure on government to take action.”
The measures the B.C. Green Caucus is urging government to implement include:
“Everyday we are hearing stories from all corners of the province about the impact of this crisis, from young people forced to move out of province, to businesses who are struggling to pay rent and attract workers due to the cost of living,” added Adam Olsen, B.C. Green Party spokesperson for housing and municipal affairs.
“This is not healthy for our economy and it is not healthy for our communities. Our communities should be places where people from all walks of life can thrive. We will continue to push for bold action on this file so that we can ensure all of B.C.’s communities are vibrant, healthy and affordable.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
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