Inclusion on B.C. housing watchlist draws ire from Burnaby mayor

Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said he only learned that his city was included in the housing ministry's list in an interview with CBC News. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)
Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said he only learned that his city was included in the housing ministry's list in an interview with CBC News. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC - image credit)

A Metro Vancouver mayor says he's unsure what his city will gain from being placed on a list of communities being watched for higher housing targets — and that one of the main factors holding his city back from building more housing is, in fact, delays in funding from the province.

Last week, the Ministry of Housing released a list of 10 municipalities where it will be setting aggressive housing targets and threatening action if those targets are not met, as part of the new Housing Supply Act.

However, an order-in-council later showed that those 10 communities were simply the first of a larger list containing 47 B.C. municipalities.

"The list is of communities that need housing, and they need it quick. Certainly expect that if communities don't participate and don't help solve the housing crisis in a way that all of us think satisfactory, then they perhaps will be on a naughty list," Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said.

"But at this stage, these are communities that desperately need housing and need it quick."

Kahlon said the list is based on three main criteria: land use efficiency, affordability, and amenities and infrastructure. In the interest of time, the 47 communities included are among those subject to the B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax.

Burnaby waiting for provincial funding

Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said he only learned that his city was included in the larger list in an interview with CBC News.

"Well, I'm a little shocked that they could place Burnaby in the list, given all the work we have done … We have 1,200 units in the city waiting to be funded by the province on our own sites, and I've always been told that they've been oversubscribed," Hurley said.

"We have had those sites sitting, waiting for two years. So I'm a little surprised that they're pointing the fingers anywhere but towards the lack of funding that was provided to build these affordable homes."

Hurley said he doubts any other community in the province is approving housing at the same rate as Burnaby. At a meeting Monday night, council heard the city will be adding nearly 13,000 units to its rental stock in the next two years.

Justin McElroy/CBC
Justin McElroy/CBC

Kahlon said the next step of the Housing Supply Act will be to "have conversations" with the first 10 municipalities over the next 30 days, laying out what targets the provincial government believes those communities should be trying to achieve.

"Then we'll make the targets public so that everyone knows where each community is heading and our expectation is after six months that we'll be able to see progress," he said.

After that, the ministry will move onto another list of 10 or so communities, determined by need, pressure for housing, and population.

$50 million in new funding

The minister said the benefit to communities of being placed on the list is that "we get to support people with housing."

He noted the federal government is more inclined to fund infrastructure projects in cities that have clear housing targets, and pointed to $1 billion in historical funding from the province to local governments for infrastructure and amenities.

In terms of new provincial funding, Kahlon said there is $50 million earmarked for communities across the province "to help them in their work to ensure that not only can they meet and have the resources to do the the work required for the Housing Supply Act, but also to do the work around the policy changes that we're going to be bringing in this fall."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Hurley, however, said he doubts that $50 million will make much of a wave across nearly 50 communities, pointing out that a new single-family home alone can cost upwards of $1.5 million to build in his city.

"I'm not too sure how much $50 million is going to do for the housing shortage," he said.