The BC Liberal Party is introducing a new rent-to-own housing scheme, aimed at gradually moving 50,000 households out of renting and into homeownership, the Lieutenant Government announced at the Throne Speech from the legislature in Victoria June 22.
The Liberal Party was seen to have lost key seats in Vancouver after being accused by the opposition NDP of not doing enough on affordable home ownership or rental. This new move seems to be the latest of the party’s eleventh-hour policies, as it tries to cling to its current, tenuous minority government and win the confidence of the House.
The new rent-to-own program would see 50,000 new homes built over the next 10 years. The homes would be rented to residents in the first instance, but part of their rents would be siphoned off by the government into an account to build up a down payment.
The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Government, said in her speech, “Housing affordability remains a particular concern … and we must ensure middle-class families are not pushed out of urban markets… With the confidence of this House, your government will work with local governments and the private sector to increase the supply of family and starter housing for middle-income earners especially along new transit lines and corridors.
“Your government will work with the private sector to build 50,000 units of new housing across the province over 10 years, which will go into a new rent-to-own home program available to middle-class families. The program will help middle-class renters grow equity through their monthly rent payments until they are in a position to own the home.
“With the confidence of this house … your government will work with municipalities to remove obstacles and eliminate backlogs to speed up the construction of new housing supply, especially for families.”
Guichon added that the Liberals also planned to close rental loopholes on fixed-term leases and renovictions — both areas in which the NDP scored points in the election by promising reforms. She also said that an affordable housing summit would be convened in the fall, and address the issue of real estate speculation in particular.
The Liberals seemed to be looking to gain support in the throne speech by introducing popular new policies, perhaps in a last-ditch hope that their leader would continue to enjoy the confidence of the House and remain in power.
The BC Liberals also lost a voting MLA, Kelowna-Mission MLA and former forestry minister Steve Thomson, on June 22 when he was named the new Speaker of the House – the only MLA to step forward for the position.
If the Liberals’ confidence vote fails, the power-sharing agreement between the NDP and the Green Party could see those two parties form a joint provincial government as early as next week.