(Wikimedia Commons)

UBCM makes 32 recommendations to make housing more affordable

Foreign-buyers tax, short-term rentals and control of ‘demovictions’ top the list

It’s looking like 2018 is going to be another year of poor housing affordability, with no forecasts showing much of a relief for British Columbians and their pocket books.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities is adding its ideas for solutions, in a new report released Thursday detailing 32 recommendations for the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

The strategy characterizes the current housing situation in British Columbia as a “crisis”, and states that all levels of government have failed to fully gauge the magnitude of the issue, the UBCM said in a news release.

“Our aim through this strategy is to focus the current discussion of housing policy on effective actions that can be implemented now,” Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said.

Points of action focus on three key areas: rental housing, demand management and homelessness.

Highlighted points include calling on the province to allow rents to increase by a higher amount each year, as part of a renewed Residential Rehabilitation program, as well as allowing cities to refuse “demovictions” that result in evictions and require replacement rental housing before allowing the demolition to proceed.

The UBCM is also urging the province to hand over the power of zoning for affordable rental housing to local governments – a provision that has fallen within provincial jurisdiction for 25 years.

“The scale of the affordability crisis makes it clear that more is needed,” the UBCM’s report reads.

Other points of action include reforming the foreign-buyers tax by removing condo presale exemptions, penalizing rapid speculative resale and regulating short-term rentals.

Making property taxes more progressive by introducing a sliding scale of rates, the UBCM says, will recognize that residents in some areas will inevitably pay higher or lower tax rates on average.

As part of a “comprehensive homeless strategy,” the UBCM is also calling on BC Housing to support local government in ensuring facility operators of supportive housing and shelters meet contract agreements in how these spaces are operated.

“Local governments have the difficult job of finding a balance between community concerns and the need to provide for various forms of supportive housing and shelters,” the report reads, adding that when the operator does not honour those agreements, residents against housing the homeless argue the operators’ commitments are meaningless.


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