UBCM housing summit bringing together multiple stakeholders, decison-makers

An upcoming province-wide housing summit will look at how to address affordability and access.

The Union of BC Municipalities’s Housing BC Together summit will have Premier David Eby and Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon in attendance as well as representatives from local government, industry, the not-for-profit and Indigenous housing sectors.

The April 4-5 summit begins with a local government panel on accommodating rapid growth and follows with plenaries on Indigenous partnerships, labour shortages and supply chain disruptions, densification and upzoning and homelessness. Day two will have breakouts on expediting development approvals, rural and northern issues, local government finance, regulation of short-term rentals and housing demand related to immigration.

The Islands Trust executive committee passed a resolution in February for funds to be set aside so that up to five individuals could attend the summit. In December 2021, council declared a housing equity and workforce shortage crisis on many of the islands within the Trust Area. In November 2022, Trust Council Chair Peter Luckham wrote to Murray Rankin, then the minister responsible for housing, requesting solutions for affordable housing specific to the Islands Trust Area. Luckham’s letter refuted the idea that the Trust Area is “often perceived as a region of wealth” and said islands lack diverse housing stock including purpose-built rental housing while facing a strong appetite for vacation rentals.

“Most affordable housing projects are initiated by non-profit community volunteers with limited experience navigating rezoning, finance, and BC Housing requirements,” Luckham wrote, volunteers who need more provincial resources to get projects to the stage in which they can access affordable housing funding.

Vanessa Craig, Electoral Area B Director and Regional District of Nanaimo board chair, was undecided as of press time if she would be attending the summit though said she was interested. The RDN is currently updating the Regional Growth Strategy which involves updating policy areas including housing. The bylaw approval process for that is scheduled for this spring and summer.

The Islands Trust and RDN have explored housing matters on a wide range of fronts over the last few years, including former trustees advocating for an Islands Housing Authority-type entity. At the 2022 UBCM convention, a resolution from the Trust seeking funding and support for rural local governments to implement affordable housing projects passed as did one from the Town of Oliver, similar to one submitted by the RDN, calling for changes to the BC Building Code to allow for tiny homes as permanent dwellings. In 2021, both the Islands Trust and RDN received provincial funding to upgrade their development approvals systems.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder