Ten B.C. municipalities have five years to build just over 60,000 new housing units under new targets released by the provincial government Tuesday (Sept. 26).
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon formally announced the targets in the presence of Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock, whose district is among the first 10 municipalities, which the province had announced in May for the additional units under the Housing Supply Act following consultations.
The province plans to announce another 10 communities in late 2023 with 16 to 20 municipalities selected for housing targets each year over the next three years.
Kahlon said the housing crisis is hurting people, holding back the provincial economy and impacting services.
“We’re taking action and working with municipal partners to make sure more homes are built in communities with the greatest housing need,” he said.
Kahlon said the provincial government will first evaluate communities after six months in acknowledging that it will take municipalities time to update their plans. “So I’m not expecting it to completely turn around in six months, but we want to see communities taking the steps to show that there is a commitment to this,” Kahlon said.
He added that all of the mayors from the 10 chosen commmunities understand that everyone plays a part. “I don’t expect that to be a challenge, but the legislation does gives us the ability to step if needed.”
Murdock welcomed the announcement. “These targets are a step toward creating more homes to meet the diverse housing needs of Saanich residents. We are committed to working together with the Province on housing solutions, and welcome their support to help us achieve our goals.”
Vancouver has to do the most lifting with 28,900 new units, followed by Abbotsford with 7,240 units and the City of Victoria with 4,902 units. The middle tier of communities includes Saanich with 4,610 units, Kamloops with 4,236 units, Delta with 3,607 units and North Vancouver with 2,838 units. Rounding out the list are Port Moody with 1,694 units, West Vancouver with 1,432 units and Oak Bay with 664 units.
The provincial housing targets represent a 38-per-cent increase in new units to be built compared to what the municipalities would have built based on historic projections, according to the provincial government.
The province also sent each municipality a list of housing target guidelines, including recommended number of units by size, rental-versus-owned units and below-market rental units with the province calling for more than 16,800 below-market rentals.
The release of the long-awaited figures comes after the Union of British Columbia Municipalities annual conference where housing was among, if not the most important subject of discussion among delegates and before the tabling of new legislation designed to increase density with other measures on the horizon.
The list gives municipalities and their respective citizens additional information about the direction of housing policy in their communities, but also puts additional demand on municipal resources, a point acknowledged in last week’s provincial announcement of $61 million to help municipalities with staffing needs.
Municipal leaders have also called on the province to step up financial support for infrastructure to accompany the additional housing beyond the $1 billion announced earlier this year among concerns that cities might not be able to meet provincial targets subject to the first round of provincial evaluation.
Premier David Eby addressed those concerns directly from Ottawa Tuesday after having led a delegation to meet federal leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“We will work with them to deliver these housing targets,” Eby said before Kahlon’s official announcement. “We are not going to announce the targets and just leave them to their devices. We are going to work with them every step of the way. If they are struggling to meet those targets, we will identify why and we will address it.”
But Eby also signalled that municipalities must make a good faith-effort.
“But to start on Day 1, to say that ‘we’re not able to hit those targets because x’ is not going to be answer,” he said. “We are going to work together, we are going to get through it…and I can say that the vast majority of cities are ready to go and I’m very grateful to those that are taking on this additional responsibility and we will be there to support them.”
As for federal support, Eby said the federal government has recognized the connection between housing and infrastructure and the capacity of cities to build additional housing, adding that the federal government is close to making an announcement as part of a pending economic update.
“The challenge, or opportunity I guess, is to coordinate that (federal) municipal accelerator program with the cities that our housing minister has been working on the housing targets,” Eby said, adding that coordination will improve the impact of that funding.
That challenge of coordinating federal with provincial and municipal measures was underscored during Tuesday’s announcement when Kahlon had to respond to a tweet from federal housing minister Sean Fraser, who announced that he was postponing a proposed funding announcement with two Metro Vancouver communities said to be Burnaby and Surrey in light of proposed increases to development cost charges.
“We are studying the impacts of this proposal and I hope to have more to say soon,” Fraser said.
Kahlon said he had seen Fraser’s tweet, but added that he shared Fraser’s concerns. Kahlon acknowledged development cost charges help fund local infrastructure, but expressed hope that “they will be re-considering their path forward.”