MLA Report: Affordable Housing

By Carole James

Here in Victoria-Beacon Hill, as in many other parts of B.C., a lack of affordable homes is hurting people and holding our province back. In Budget 2018, your provincial government has taken the first steps to deal with the housing affordability crisis that has been building for many years.

We are acting immediately to stabilize demand by introducing a new speculation tax, increasing and expanding the foreign buyers tax to 20 percent and closing legal loopholes abused by speculators. And we’re working hard to build the right supply.

We’re making the biggest investment in housing in our province’s history -- $7 billion over 10 years to build new purpose built rental housing, and to upgrade and improve existing rental housing throughout B.C. This investment will provide affordable homes for people across our province, including families, seniors, people with disabilities and students.

Thousands of affordable homes are in development today, with tens of thousands more to come. We want to make sure people who live and work here are able to find and afford a good home in their community. Our plan is aimed at stabilizing the market, cracking down on tax fraud and closing loopholes, building the homes people need, improving stability for renters, and supporting partners to build and preserve affordable housing.

A new speculation tax

We’re introducing a speculation tax that focuses on owners who are leaving homes vacant and driving up prices. The tax will apply to the Capital Regional District (excluding the Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca), Metro Vancouver, Kelowna and West Kelowna, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission. British Columbians who own property in one of these areas will not pay the speculation tax if:

  • The property is their primary residence; or
  • The property is rented out for at least three months of the year in 2018, and six months of the year in subsequent years; or
  • They have one secondary property that is assessed at less than $400,000.

Overall, more than 99% of British Columbians will be exempt from the tax.

Making life better for renters

In the past 16 years, too many people in our community have seen their rents skyrocket or have found their rental contracts becoming more and more precarious. As the Premier notes, our laws haven’t kept up with the changing housing market, and that has left both renters and landlords vulnerable.

To improve security and fairness for renters and landlords, Premier John Horgan has appointed a Rental Housing Task Force. This task force will consult with British Columbians, review laws in other jurisdictions and deliver the first full review of our residential tenancy laws in 16 years.

The Rental Housing Task Force will work throughout the summer to better understand what further changes could modernize B.C.’s tenancy laws, including:

  • Consulting the public, landlords, tenants and stakeholders on their views and experiences with current tenancy laws and processes within the rental industry;
  • Identifying options to improve security and fairness for both renters and landlords, while addressing the challenges of affordability;
  • Reviewing existing laws and how they apply to different housing models; and
  • Reviewing innovative approaches in other jurisdictions.

The task force will report findings and make recommendations this fall.

Improving rental benefits

To help renters squeezed by the increasing cost of living, the Province is increasing and expanding rental benefits through the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) programs.

  • The average payment for RAP recipients will go up by approximately $800 a year.
  • The average payment for SAFER recipients will go up by approximately $930 a year.

To see if you are eligible for RAP or SAFER, use this online calculator:

In the last few months, we’ve strengthened protection from unfair rent increases by closing the fixed-term lease loophole and eliminating the geographic rent increase clause. We’ve also increased funding for the Residential Tenancy Branch to reduce wait times for tenancy disputes and to establish a new compliance unit to take action against landlords and tenants who are repeat or serious offenders.

Taken together, these actions represent the first step on the path to reaching our goal of a province where everyone has the secure, safe, and affordable home they need.  I encourage you to visit www.workingforyou.gov.bc.ca to learn more, and to contact my office with any questions.

I always appreciate hearing about the issues that are important to you. Please stay in touch.

1084 Fort Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3K4
Phone: 250 952-4211
Carole.James.mla@leg.bc.ca
www.carolejamesmla.ca

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