NDP leader John Horgan and Victoria MLAs Carole James and Rob Fleming visit a townhouse project with units set aside for below-market housing, built in 1996. (TOM FLETCHER/BLACK PRESS)

John Horgan protests delay in housing reform

Christy Clark renews warning about Site C delays

NDP leader John Horgan says the rental housing shortage in B.C. can’t wait for the political showdown playing out in slow motion at the B.C. legislature, as the B.C. Liberal government looks to extend its fragile minority to at least the end of June.

In the latest of a series of campaign-style events he has continued since the inconclusive election result of May 9, Horgan targeted B.C. Liberal inaction on rental housing. At a subsidized housing project in Victoria Tuesday, Horgan said the choice of Skeena B.C. Liberal MLA Ellis Ross to take over responsibility for housing is another delay.

Ross was sworn in as minister responsible for natural gas and housing Monday, taking over from Deputy Premier Rich Coleman in a full-scale cabinet appointment for a B.C. Liberal government expected to last little more than a week when the legislature resumes sitting June 22.

“It strikes me as odd that Rich Coleman would have held onto the housing file for 15 years, and then at the 11th hour it’s passed on to a rookie MLA from the Northwest,” Horgan said. “We had a whole bunch of outstanding questions for Mr. Coleman about the practices of his team when it came to housing, and the deals they were doing with developers in the Lower Mainland.”

The NDP has pressed for a change to the Residential Tenancy Act to rein in the use of sbort-term leases by landlords, used to circumvent rent increase restrictions and impose higher rents in a new lease. They say a near-zero rental vacancy rate in Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island has produced a variety of tactics to increase rent, including eviction of tenants for minor renovations that also allow a new rental rate.

“When you have landlords that put a coat of paint on an existing building and jack up the rent, that’s the fundamental problem,” Horgan said.

Premier Christy Clark, meanwhile, has renewed her request to Horgan to clarify what the pending NDP-Green alliance will do with the Site C dam project on the Peace River in northeast B.C.

In her second letter to Horgan, released Tuesday, Clark says she has asked B.C. Hydro to extend the lease by another two weeks to mid-July on two homes that are in the way of a road construction project.

“The tender for this road construction portion of the project is scheduled to be released this week, with the bridge construction tender to follow shortly,” Clark wrote.

BC Hydro executives presented their timeline at a briefing in Victoria last week, describing a “domino effect” from the road and bridge realignment that would trigger a year-long delay in river diversion works. That delay would produce cost overruns totalling $630 million, BC Hydro estimates.

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