$670m for homeless and low-income housing, but no new taxes or promised renters’ rebate
The new BC NDP government is promising $670 million for affordable housing in various forms, but has not yet set aside any money for two of its housing promises made during the election, the BC Budget Update announcement revealed September 11.
Finance minister Carole James said the NDP is committing $291 million to build 2,000 new modular housing units across the province to house the homeless, plus more than $170 million over three years to operate the housing.
It also pledged a further $208 million over four years to build 1,700 new rental housing units for low-income renters, seniors and those with disabilities and mental health problems.
However, there was no new money for the promised renter’s rebate of $400 a year. Nor was there any announcement of the NDP’s pledged tax on homes owned by non-income-tax-payers, or the mooted speculation tax.
James stated in the Budget document, “Less than eight weeks after forming government, we have taken the first steps to invest in the people of BC with this budget update. We’ve made some immediate investments while we work towards our first full budget in February.”
The finance minister said her party only had a few weeks to prepare the budget update, according to a Vancouver Sun report. “I’ll acknowledge we didn’t have the time to be able to implement all the commitments in the timeline laid out,” said James.
“We can’t turn back the clock of 16 years overnight.”
Anne McMullin, president of the Urban Development Institute – Pacific Region, said, “UDI welcomed the recognition from the Minister of Finance that the housing affordability crisis can’t be addressed in a piecemeal approach. We also were relieved to see the new government didn’t rush to introduce any new demand-side housing measures or taxes in this budget update.
“The government’s announcement of [housing] for low-income earners and the homeless is a positive first step.”
However, she added, “The increase in corporate income tax, a higher income tax for those who invest in the economy and the elimination of the revenue-neutrality provisions of the carbon tax could hurt BC’s overall tax competitiveness.
“UDI was also disappointed the major projects of Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation plan (Mayors’ 10-year plan), a key to addressing housing affordability, were not advanced. We are concerned that a potential drop in revenues by eliminating tolls would mean that funding for the major pieces of the Mayors’ plan will fall short, or result in further delays.”
Neil Moody, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of British Columbia, also made a statement. He said, “It is positive to see that government is allocating funds for these new units, without increasing costs for new home buyers. The new units will also open up space for other renters, adding to the supply of available and affordable rental units.”
He added, “The reality is that government will not be able to build new affordable housing for everyone. In this new strategy, measures to improve market housing affordability for all British Columbians must be considered. The private sector will be an important voice in the consultation process.”