BC government’s new Housing Supply Act to require cities to meet targets

[November 21, 2022 Daily Hive]

Over a number of occasions this past year, including during the BC NDP’s leadership race, David Eby hinted the provincial government would create new legislation after the civic election to compel municipal governments to build more housing supply.

We now have a better picture of how such a strategy will be rolled out. This morning, as one of his most significant policy directions since taking office just last week, the new premier announced the framework for the forthcoming Housing Supply Act (HSA), which is expected to go into effect in the middle of 2023.

“BC’s housing crisis is stressing out and hurting people while it holds back our economy,” said Eby. “As a first step in my 100-day plan, we are making changes to deliver more homes for British Columbians, faster. We will work with municipalities to set housing targets and make sure the homes people need get built… For those worried about the future, we’re setting out a new way to coordinate the efforts of our cities and the Province to build the homes people need quickly.”

The provincial government will be given the power to establish housing targets for municipal governments — a measure that is in addition to the recent practice of requiring cities to create their own Housing Needs reports every five years, which saw cities identify how much and what type of new housing they needed to catalyze to fill demand.

The HSA will initially establish housing targets for between eight to 10 cities with the greatest housing affordability issues and highest projected demand growth. Vancouver and other major Metro Vancouver jurisdictions are likely to dominate this initial list.

The provincial government states the targets for each jurisdiction will be based on information provided by and in consultation with the municipal governments. It is intended that the HSA will encourage municipal governments to address inefficient policies and red tape that prevents housing from being built faster, including bylaws and the approval processes.

“The targets will be based in part on information and advice provided by municipalities through their housing needs reports on housing demand and supply factors and will include criteria, such as unit size and densities, tenure, and affordability. Targets will also factor in community plans, projected population growth, economic projections, the local development environment, and other relevant factors,” reads a release.

Municipalities will be required to report on their progress in meeting the housing target. In addition, HSA will allow the provincial government to appoint an independent advisor to review the municipal governments that “struggle” to make inroads in meeting housing targets.

During today’s press conference, Eby emphasized the provincial government will work with municipal governments, instead of coming in with a heavy hand.

However, a heady hand is an option; the HSA enables “compliance options as a last resort, should municipalities with the highest need struggle to create the conditions that are necessary to ensure housing gets built.”

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim has indicated he supports the provincial government’s new measures, stating “the collaborative approach toward housing targets is a critical step forward and will help ensure predictable increases in housing supply across the Lower Mainland. This legislation goes a long way in addressing housing shortages in Vancouver and has my full support.”

The provincial government notes precedent has been set by other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom and California, in setting housing targets to meet. For example, California’s non-compliance consequences for municipal governments that do not meet their housing targets include the power to restrict cities from accessing grants and loans, including for infrastructure.

As part of today’s housing policy measures, Eby also announced the provincial government would end the anbility for strata councils to ban the ability for strata councils to ban the ability of homeowners to rent out their units.

During the BC NDP leadership campaign, the former attorney general and minister responsible for housing also promised a new public housing development initiative by the provincial government and a new flipping tax on homes based on ownership duration.

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