The B.C. government is chipping away at promises made under its multi-billion-dollar housing plan, announcing two new initiatives aimed at boosting supply and affordability on Monday.
The province is launching a new guide for homeowners who want to build and manage a rental suite on their property. That comes ahead of planned legislation to make secondary suites legal throughout B.C. and an incentive program that would offer some 3,000 homeowners forgivable loans of up to $40,000 to build and rent them below market rate.
The province is also launching a one-stop shop digital hub for homebuilding permit applications to help clear backlogs.
“You don’t have to navigate your way on your own through the maze of the provincial government. It has every step that you need, it takes you from beginning to end,” Premier David Eby said at a Monday press conference.
“It’s not the full answer, it’s not the silver bullet, we have to go at this issue of housing from so many angles and that’s what we’re doing.”
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In April, the province announced its four-point Homes for People housing strategy outlining a promise to deliver legislation that would allow up to four units on a single traditional housing lot, as well as a tax on the proceeds of home-flipping.
The plan, which includes a $4-billion investment over three years and $12 billion over a decade, will change provincewide zoning laws to allow more townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and row homes, as well as make it easier and legal for people to rent secondary and basement suites.
When the plan was announced, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said he wanted B.C. to become a “North American leader in digital permitting.”
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On Monday, Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen said the province is taking a step in that direction, launching the user-friendly Single Housing Application Service to deal with “tens of thousands” of backlogs.
The service will include provincial navigators to support users through the process and eliminate the need to apply for permits separately through various ministries. It will also prioritize Indigenous-led and multiple-dwelling applications.
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“We know that time is money when it comes to building homes. The longer it takes to build a home, the more expensive that home will be,” Cullen said.
“All orders of government have responsibilities for getting these homes built and allowing the permits to move faster, more transparently.”
Dueling federal housing incentives
Kahlon said the province plans to launch its rebate incentive for homeowners building secondary suites next spring. In the interim, the new ‘Home Suite Home’ guide is intended to cut back on the “confusing” and “time-consuming” nature of learning how to do that.
Carmina Tupe, director of policy and government relations for the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association in B.C., said she is “optimistic” the announcements will make a difference. The lack of clarity in the current permitting process in particular has left some homebuilders in the lurch for up to two years, she explained.
“We look forward to the clarity the navigators will bring, and of course, testing how quickly provincial permits can be processed and cut down on traditional wait times,” she said.
The announcements come less than a week after the federal government announced it would eliminate the GST on the construction of all new rental apartment buildings — a change welcomed by Kahlon and Eby.
They also come as the Union of BC Municipalities gathers for its annual convention, in which housing is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
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