Q&A with David Eby on upcoming changes to provincial municipal housing oversight

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This week it was announced that home prices in southwestern British Columbia have all-time records last month.

Selling prices for suburban apartments have risen nearly 50% over the past year.

And the provincial government is increasingly hinting at actions to take over some elements of housing policies from local governments – which are in charge of land use decisions – rather than implementing new housing taxes or regulations. property that would focus more on demand.

Given all of this, we asked David Eby, British Columbia’s minister responsible for housing, for a phone interview.

The following is an edited transcript.

The metro has: I remember what David Eby was like in 2015 and 2016 say about soaring house prices in BC What are your general thoughts when you see these records now?

Eby: This is all sadly to be expected… as we added approximately 25,000 net new British Columbians in the last quarter of 2021. And they are engaged in a Hunger Games style struggle with others who are already struggling to find housing here. We must therefore significantly increase the number of homes for rent and purchase. And unfortunately, we’re not responding to that demand right now with the municipalities, especially in the area where most of these people are settling, which is Metro Vancouver.

MM: I heard you talk about the supply measures needed and how you think municipalities need to step up a bit. But, so far, it’s mostly rhetoric on your part: the government hasn’t really changed much in terms of dynamics or incentives. When can people expect action?

Eby: I hope we will have a series of measures in place to help solve the housing problem during the fall legislative session. We have already taken significant steps to address toxic demand…and work on supply is starting in earnest, as it should. Our population is growing dramatically.

MM: You’ve been talking about it for a while. Why can’t the government be ready? Why do you say another seven months?

Eby: Well, you know, we tried a cooperative approach with municipalities, giving them voluntary tools to avoid public hearings on certain types of applications. The challenge we’ve seen—and many MPs tell us this—is that the structures in place don’t allow them to quickly approve those units. So we are collaborating as much as possible with the cities. And when you do that, it takes a little longer, but it’s important to do it.

MM: In the fall, municipal elections are approaching. Can you say if the legislation will come before or after? Couldn’t that create a bit of a weird dynamic for politicians campaigning but not knowing what land use policies will be in place?

Eby: For municipal politicians, I think this should be an issue they address in the countryside: the housing shortage and what their plan is to address it. Residents are tired of not finding a place to rent. They are tired of the idea that it takes five to seven years to get a new rental building approved.

But, at the end of the day, I think we need to improve the tools available to local governments and also make sure that they actually approve the housing that we need. Whether or not to approve the housing is not optional, but rather, the role of the city government is to talk about the place – and maybe what it looks like – but not whether the house is going to be. before or not.

MM: Can you rule out taking more, shall we say, active jurisdiction in some of these things, as we have seen in Ontariotake precedence over municipalities on spatial planning decisions, for example?

Eby: Well, there are a lot of interesting models that we have seen. What we’ve done is the first step of requiring local governments to prepare a housing needs survey, so they know what the growth will be in their community.

And the next step is to make sure they tie the housing approvals they give to the demand in their community, so the provincial government doesn’t have to sweep up and deal with encampments and people who sleep in their car – which is the inevitable consequence as people are squeezed out of the bottom of the housing market by those with higher salaries at the top of the market trying to find housing.

MM: One of the big anti-supply arguments is that a lot of these up-zone locations are over-landing. This creates land value inflation and ends up doing nothing to reduce the price of housing. Do you disagree with this review, or do you slightly agree with it? And are you hoping to put in place measures that mitigate that?

Eby: I mean, if that were true, if allowing extra density reduced affordability, then Shaughnessy and Dunbar would be the most affordable neighborhoods in Vancouver. These are single family home areas where you are not allowed to build density. And therefore, they must be more affordable. They are not. They are the least affordable.

And the insane nature of the argument challenges BC’s 25,000 net new residents – 90% of whom will end up in Metro Vancouver – and the idea that we don’t need to meet that offer with new housing, that we don’t need homes for these people, that they can somehow find a place to live.

I think we still have the opportunity to free up some units through better regulation of short-term rentals. It’s not that we’re giving up speculation in the market or trying to find ways to approach people flipping properties. But at the end of the day, if you have 25,000 people moving every three months in Metro Vancouver, you have to build houses for them.

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