Home Election Tracker BC Provincial 2024 NDP’s big housing shift could be ballot box challenge

NDP’s big housing shift could be ballot box challenge

Despite political drama & opposition, housing supply must increase as rapidly as possible.

david eby, ravi kahlon, may 2024
BC Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon in the Legislative Assembly, May 2024. [Hardsard / IST composite]

Saturday May 11, 2024 | VICTORIA, BC

Political insights by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

When we talk about affordability for British Columbians one of the major drivers of concern is affordability around housing. There’s no question that rising interest rates are a big part of that.

“The other is the fact that our province is growing so quickly, and we need to build housing to match that population growth,” the Premier said during an outdoor media session in Victoria on May 8.

premier david eby, housing minister, ravi kahlon, housing
Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon launched the Secondary Suite Incentive Program at the Castle Building Centre lumber yard in Vic West on May 2, 2024. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Eby noted that the population in BC is growing by 10,000 people every 37 days are moving into BC. “They need homes, they need public services, schools, hospitals and family doctors,” he said.

“It’s a massive part of the challenge that we’re facing but it’s also part of the solution to some of the issues that we’re facing.”

Shifts in housing strategies:

There has been push-back from opposition parties about many aspects of the housing legislation that the BC NDP have brought forward.

As well, some municipalities are concerned about infrastructure, costs and ability to meeting the housing targets set for many municipalities, having to grapple with the transit-oriented-area requirements in larger cities, and loss of the formal public hearing process for development applications.

david eby, ravi kahlon
Premier David Eby and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced legislation for better protection of renters and landlords, April 2, 2024 in Victoria. [livestream]

The investment community has felt robbed of their ‘right’ to buy and operate properties as short-term rentals. Some communities bristle at the idea of multiplex construction on what have been single-family lots until now.

It’s a lot of change. But it’s bold. And despite the political drama and opposition few can argue that housing supply must increase as rapidly as possible.

Some municipalities have been quite outspoken against a range of changes using wording like ‘shoving it down our throats’. When in fact everyone wants more housing supply and the BC NDP government has responded with creative solutions in a relatively short period of time.

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Standalone housing ministry:

A standalone housing ministry only started rolling in 2023.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon has been fully absorbed with the housing challenge since he took the reins as Housing Minister and also Government House Leader in December 2022.

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Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announcing new multi-unit zoning legislation at the BC Legislature on Nov 1, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Addressing the urgency:

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon this week responded to an opposition question in the legislature with comments that frame the tone and temperament of the urgency and diligence of the government to deal with the housing crisis.

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Government House Leader and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon in the Legislative Assembly, May 7, 2024. [Hansard livestream]

“No doubt homelessness is a challenging situation being faced not only in British Columbia, not only across the country, but around North America,” said Kahlon on May 8. “We don’t have enough housing for the people in our communities.”

“That’s why we have taken the steps that we have to ensure that we can increase housing supply. But not only to support the private sector to build more housing but also expand the non-market housing space,” Kahlon said.

“We’re going to continue to work with communities to ensure that we can build the affordable housing that people need. For too long governments have stayed out of building housing … expecting that ‘people will just figure it out themselves’,” said Kahlon.

The NDP is doing things differently. “We’re taking a different approach, working with all communities to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our communities have access to housing,” said Kahlon in this second-last week of the legislative sitting before the provincial election.

Over the longer term, results will be seen with regard to increased housing in response to the housing targets set by the province for specific communities. So far, the City of Victoria has met their target. The District of Saanich is fully on board. Fast-growing west shore communities like Langford and Sooke are not yet on the list.

ravi kahlon, dean murdock, saanich, housing
BC Housing Minister chatting with Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock ahead of announcing the housing targets for 10 municipalities, Sept 26, 2023 at Saanich municipal hall. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

BC leads for the country:

Recently Minister Kahlon quipped that he’s writing housing policy for the country. He was referring to how BC Builds (which sees the province supporting land acquisition for the construction of affordable housing) was readily copied federally as Canada Builds.

david eby, ravi kahlon, chrystia freeland
Premier David Eby and BC Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon listen to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland at a joint meeting in Vancouver on July 6, 2023. [BC Govt]

The idea of providing off-the-shelf building plans to builders and developers has been picked up elsewhere as well, to speed along the construction of homes including adapting single family lots to accommodate up to four housing units.

Fall 2024 election:

The BC provincial election on October 19, 2024 is fast approaching. “It will be a very lively debate around housing during the election,” said Eby.

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Eby says he looks forward to discussing the BC NDP housing approach on the campaign trail this summer and fall.

“We have put forward a very clear agenda where we consistently taking the side of people who are looking for a place to rent or looking for a place to buy,” the Premier said regarding how housing might be debated on the campaign trail.

“People who are looking to buy a home for an investment to keep it vacant as an Airbnb,” was inserted in the Premier’s comments during his live media session on May 8. The proliferation of short-term rental properties has eaten up a lot of available supply for long-term renters.

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“And we’re also taking a very clear stand that we need to build more housing,” said Eby. He said that includes in single-family neighbourhoods where, for example, a senior can rebuild their place into two and rent out or sell the other half, which is now “a legal thing to do across the province”.

“We stand for that,” the Premier said.

Key housing wins for voters:

Seniors can be relied upon to vote. This year the changes that Housing Minister Kahlon made to the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program for low-to-moderate income seniors were heading in the right direction. The rent ceiling was raised, and the income calculation will be raised each year in alignment with inflation. There was also a catch-up bonus issued in April 2024.

Of all the housing legislation changes, it’s probably the short-term rental investment property elimination that will produce the easiest most prompt increase in housing supply. The NDP probably won’t lose many votes from the business investors who are annoyed by that; that group is not likely in the NDP voting block.

housing minister, ravi kahlon, saanich
Housing Minister Ravi Kahon announced housing targets for 10 municipalities, on Sept 26, 2023 at Saanich municipal hall. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Dealing with the opposition:

“Almost every one of our housing initiatives has been opposed by John Rustad and Kevin Falcon,” he said, referencing the leaders of the Conservative Party of BC and the BC United Party, respectively.

They have demonstrated “again and again” that they “support investors and speculators in housing over families”.

Eby recapped that Falcon had suggested in the legislature that the flipping tax time period be shortened. He also recapped that Rustad has said that it’s a private property right to buy as many homes as you want, to convert to Airbnb’s.

“This is the side that they’re on. We’re on the side of people looking for homes and building as many homes as we can. And we’re going to keep doing that work,” said Eby.

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LOCAL JOURNALISM INFORMS — we bring you local news about your community. Island Social Trends reports news with socioeconomic insights and analysis. Independent news service on south Vancouver Island, BC. Read free online or get the biweekly PDF by email.

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Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke

Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been producing socioeconomic and political analysis about the west shore and South Vancouver Island region since 2008. Her series of publications has been well received: MapleLine Magazine (colour print quarterly 2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (greyscale print weekly 2011-2013), West Shore Voice News (colour print weekly & PDF / 2014-2020), and now Island Social Trends (2020 to present online).

Since covering the COVID pandemic daily in 2020-2022 Ms Brooke has also been reporting alongside the BC Legislative Press Gallery on a range of political issues.

In 2022 Ms Brooke ran for school trustee in the west shore of Vancouver Island (SD62 – Belmont Zone) to highlight issues of concern to parents.

In 2023, Mary P Brooke was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation journalism award to recognize professional journalism by a woman journalist as a contribution to her community.

In 2024, Mary Brooke launched the Urban Food Resilience Initiatives Society to guide the growing of natural food in urban spaces.