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New premier delivers action to expand housing supply within first days

November 21, 2022 at 11:52 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Legislation is being introduced to increase housing supply and speed up housing development in communities throughout the province where the need is greatest. Amendments are also being made to the Strata Property Act that will remove discriminatory age and rental restrictions in strata bylaws to broaden access to existing housing in B.C.

Housing supply act:

The housing supply act builds on existing requirements for local governments to create Housing Needs Reports that identify housing demand and supply factors in their jurisdictions. 

In 2018, government introduced a new requirement for local governments to produce housing needs reports every five years. The first reports were submitted by April 2022. The Province provided $5 million over three years to support this work.

According to an April 2022 report from the Homebuilders Association Vancouver, 19 out of 20 Metro Vancouver municipalities are not building enough housing to meet their projected population growth for 2040.

Initially, it is expected that housing targets will be established in consultation with approximately eight to 10 municipalities with the greatest need and highest projected growth. ​The targets will be based in part on information and advice provided by municipalities through their housing needs reports on housing demand and supply factors, and will include criteria, such as unit size and densities, tenure and affordability. Targets will also factor in community plans, projected population growth, economic projections, the local development environment and other relevant factors. Once a housing target is established in a municipality, the municipality will be required to report on its progress, including homes delivered and the actions taken or planned toward meeting the target.

The act will allow the Province to appoint an independent adviser to review the processes of municipalities that struggle to make progress on housing targets. The adviser would help the provincial government better understand unique challenges of the municipality and provide recommendations for actions the municipality or the Province could take to ensure housing targets are met.

The United Kingdom and California have similar housing target frameworks. California has been doing this since 1969 and the U.K. since the early 1980s. Target-setting in both jurisdictions is iterative as new information becomes available and lessons are learned. California has implemented compliance consequences, which allow the state to bar access to grants and loans, including those for infrastructure, if a local government does not fully participate in their targets process.

To support implementation, B.C. will continue to provide new tools and supports to local governments to help them speed up their local housing approvals processes through the continued implementation of the Development Approvals Process Review, as the Province also accelerates work to speed up provincial approvals. 

In 2021, government provided $15 million to local governments to support the implementation of initiatives to improve and speed up development approvals processes, while meeting local government planning and policy objectives. Recent amendments to the Local Government Act also provide new tools to municipalities to help them speed up local approvals.

Strata Property Act amendments:

Amendments to the Strata Property Act will ban strata rental-restriction bylaws and limit age restrictions in strata housing to 55 and older, preserving seniors’ communities, while opening up housing options for families. These changes fulfil a recommendation of the Province’s Rental Housing Task Force.

Rental restriction bylaws have already been banned in strata corporations formed since Jan. 1, 2010. The change extends the ban on rental restrictions to stratas formed before that date. There are approximately 300,000 strata units built before 2010 that may still be subject to rental bans.

Data from the Speculation and Vacancy Tax shows that in areas of B.C. covered by the tax, there were nearly 2,900 vacant units in strata buildings with rental restrictions in 2021 – the last year the exemption was available before it phased out. If passed, age and rental restrictions would be lifted immediately, and these empty units will be available to renters.

Stratas that want to restrict short-term rentals, like AirBnBs, will still be encouraged to do so to ensure long-term rental options are available for British Columbians. The Province is working with municipalities to bring in further short-term rental restrictions in future legislative sessions. In addition, the Residential Tenancy Branch policy guidelines have been updated to state that a strata corporation can issue a notice to end a tenancy and apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for dispute resolution in place of the landlord, while recovering the costs of that application.

The Province is also making life easier for those who live in stratas by making electronic meetings a permanent option. During the COVID-19 pandemic, electronic meetings became a reliable and safe way to conduct strata operations and often increased owner participation. Electronic meetings may be held by phone or online via Zoom or Teams, for example, or as a hybrid both in-person and electronically. 

If approved, this change would take effect immediately. The Province’s temporary regulation allowing stratas to hold electronic meetings was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022.

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