David Eby, leadership candidate for the B.C. New Democratic Party, proposed expansive changes Wednesday to address the province's housing shortage if he is elected to become the next premier.
Eby, who served as B.C.'s housing minister until he resigned in July to run for the B.C. NDP's leadership, proposed changes to provincial housing policies, including measures to increase density in communities zoned for single family homes and a new "flipping tax" — which would apply to the sale of residential properties that are resold within two years.
"If you hold your property for two years, you don't pay tax, but if you are flipping it in a short period of time, you're paying tax," Eby told CBC's The Early Edition host, Steven Quinn, on Thursday.
"We don't want first-time home buyers competing for a place to live with a bunch of short-term speculators and investors that are driving prices up."
He also proposed using public land to fast-track construction of "affordable, middle-class housing," by working together with First Nations, home builders, non-profit organizations, cities and other levels of government.
He said he plans to tackle the housing shortage by making secondary suites legal in all communities across B.C., and allow home builders to replace a single-family home with up to three units on the same footprint.
"We have people living in their cars, we have people who can't find a place to rent so you need to allow your residents in your community to rent that basement suite," Eby said.
"Rental rates are near zero per cent and we need all cities to participate with the province."
Eby also proposed a new Rental Housing Acquisition Fund, which will allocate $500 million for one-time capital funding to buy at-risk affordable rental housing, in an effort to discourage speculation by investors and open up public land to build housing people can afford.
"The only thing worse than doing nothing is to retreat from the gains we've made and trust market-driven investors will do the right thing," Eby said in a written statement.
Statistics Canada data released Wednesday shows B.C.'s population has increased by more than 115,000 over the past year.
Step in the right direction
Jennifer Bradshaw with Abundant Housing Vancouver says Wednesday's announcement was "very welcoming" and shows the province is serious about tackling B.C.'s housing shortage.
"Land use policy is the key to solving the housing crisis," Bradshaw told CBC News.
"It indicates that the province is taking land use issues as a priority as part of the solution."
She said allowing single family units to be turned into three-unit lots will allow neighbourhoods focused on single family homes to be more inclusive to renters.
"More wealthy places such as Oak Bay ... I think this will put pressure on them and basically say that you can't exclude renters by preventing things like basement suites and laneway houses," she said.
B.C. Liberal Finance Critic Peter Milobar questioned why some of these plans were not suggested when Eby was the housing minister.
He said allowing secondary suites in all communities across the province is forcing municipalities to allow greater density when they may not want to.
In Victoria, council recently voted to put off the decision to rezone family homes for higher density until after the municipal election on Oct. 15.
"It really makes one question where this was for the last six years," Milobar said.
Penny Gurstien, director of the Housing Research Collaborative at the University of British Columbia, said Eby's proposal is "very ambitious" and had some good points, but she's concerned that the plan does not address those who are experiencing homelessness.
"This platform was really aimed for addressing the middle-income population," she said.
Eby's platform also included removing strata restrictions on rentals and age restrictions for buildings that only allow residents age 19 and older.
Tony Gioventu with the Condo Homeowners Association of B.C. said allowing more rental units in condo buildings will not help address the problem.
"All of these communities with no rentals, they are going to be opened to speculators and investors and that's simply not an appropriate way to address housing," he said.