The first piece of legislation, the housing supply act, will help speed up housing development and increase supply by giving the Province the power to set housing targets in municipalities with the greatest need and highest projected growth. Targets will be based on information provided by and in consultation with municipalities. The new housing targets will encourage municipalities to address local barriers to construction so that housing can get built faster, including updating zoning bylaws and streamlining local development approval processes.
“I had a good job lined up and even I had a hard time finding a home,” said Omama Shoib, a health-care worker who moved from Alberta to Victoria. “We need more housing options across the board urgently. Some people aren’t as lucky as I was and have to turn down job opportunities or schooling because they can’t find suitable housing. I’m relieved the government is doing more to increase housing so people don’t have to give up on pursuing their goals just because they can’t find a place to live.”
The Province will monitor progress and work with municipalities to help address barriers to meeting housing targets and to support the increased community needs associated with targeted growth. The act enables compliance options as a last resort, should municipalities with the highest need struggle to create the conditions that are necessary to ensure housing gets built.
If passed, the housing supply act is scheduled to be brought into force in mid-2023. To support implementation, the Province will continue to help local governments speed up local approval processes through the continued implementation of the Development Approvals Process Review and work underway to accelerate provincial approvals.
In addition, the Province is making amendments to the Strata Property Act to end all strata rental-restriction bylaws and to limit age-restriction bylaws so that the only permitted age restrictrion is to preserve and promote serniors’ housing through the “55 and over” rule in strata housing. Some buildings have “19+ only” age restrictions that mean couples starting a family have to plan to move out as soon as they become pregnant. Stratas will be able to appear at the Residential Tenancy Branch to evict problem tenants and recover costs of those appearances.
“There’s a lot of things on your mind when you are getting ready to start a family. It can be a very stressful time,” said Sarah Arnold, an expectant mother and condo owner in Victoria. “The last thing you need to think about when you’re preparing to welcome a newborn is finding a new place to live. These unjust age restrictions have hurt a lot of families, and I am pleased to see the Province is taking action to make sure no more couples have to uproot their lives and leave their homes if they decide to start a family.”
In areas where government has data through the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, there are approximately 2,900 empty condos that cannot be rented out because strata rules prevent them from renting out their condo, and government expects there are more empty units in strata buildings in other parts of the province. This amendment will enable owners to rent out these badly needed homes immediately. Government also expects that some owners in strata buildings would choose to rent out a room in their condo if they were given the opportunity to do so.
“Rules that prevent families with children from living in a home or prevent people from renting the unit they own are no longer acceptable in our current housing market,” said Murray Rankin, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “These amendments will open up more rental and homeownership options for people at a time when they’re needed the most.”
If approved, the changes to the Strata Property Act would take effect immediately. Bylaws restricting short-term rentals, such as AirBnBs, will continue to be allowed.
These actions are new steps to deliver homes in B.C., building on B.C.’s 10-year, $7-billion Homes for B.C. plan.
A map showing the location of all announced provincially funded housing projects in B.C. is available online: https://www.bchousing.org/homes-for-BC
To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/housing
Two backgrounders follow.
What people are saying about the housing supply act, amendments to the Strata Property Act
Marianne Alto, mayor, City of Victoria –
“This legislation will provide us with another tool to deliver the much-needed homes our city needs, to house the people who call Victoria home. I want to thank the Province for their leadership in this regard. The City of Victoria is committed to fulfilling our commitment to build a continuum of housing across the affordability spectrum the people in our community deserve.”
Jill Atkey, chief executive officer, BC Non-Profit Housing Association –
“Through land use, zoning and approvals, municipalities have the tools they need to create the right conditions for the right type of housing supply. This legislation recognizes the urgency of the housing crisis and takes us a step beyond the status quo by requiring municipalities to set and achieve the housing they need in their communities.”
Linda Buchanan, mayor, City of North Vancouver –
“Access to affordable and adequate housing is a right we all share. The housing crisis we are experiencing today requires all levels of government to work together toward delivering homes that people need so our communities and economy function. I applaud the Province for taking steps to increase housing supply through a targeted, needs-based approach. Every community has an important role to play.”
Ken Sim, mayor, City of Vancouver –
“By removing restrictions on strata housing units, this act will help deliver much-needed rental supply, making it easier for families with children to live and work in Vancouver. No municipality will benefit more than the City of Vancouver (the city with the largest number of strata units) from the removal of strata rental restrictions. Furthermore, the collaborative approach toward housing targets is a critical step forward and will help ensure predictable increases in housing supply across the Lower Mainland. This legislation goes a long way in addressing housing shortages in Vancouver and has my full support.”
Dean Murdock, mayor, District of Saanich –
“Housing affordability and availability are among the biggest problems people in Saanich and across the province are facing. We all need to work together to address this issue and deliver the homes people need for sustainable and thriving communities. I’m glad the Province is taking these steps to help ensure municipalities build the housing people in their communities need.”
Nathan Pachal, mayor, City of Langley –
“In Langley, we used our Housing Needs Report to update our Official Community Plan to ensure that we have housing to meet the needs of all people in our community, including working folks. We have introduced row housing to support gentle infill in areas where they weren’t permitted before. We will now be allowing three housing units via second suites and garden suites on some single-family lots in our community. All local governments must do their part to build more housing. The Province and a few municipalities cannot do it on their own. I support this new approach to ensure all local governments have plans, policies and zoning in place to build housing that is obtainable for working folks.”
Brenda Locke, mayor, City of Surrey –
“Surrey has been a leader in offering affordable and diverse housing in the region, but there is no question that we and other cities in the Lower Mainland can deliver more when all levels of government work together. I welcome the proposed new legislation introduced by Premier Eby, and I also thank the Premier for recognizing the need to have the necessary community infrastructure in place to serve the increased supply of new homes. Surrey City Council looks forward to working with the Province to deliver much needed housing for our citizens.”
New legislation to increase housing supply
Legislation is being introduced to increase housing supply and speed up housing development in communities throughout the province where the need is greatest. Amendments are also being made to the Strata Property Act that will remove discriminatory age and rental restrictions in strata bylaws to broaden access to existing housing in B.C.
Housing supply act:
The housing supply act builds on existing requirements for local governments to create Housing Needs Reports that identify housing demand and supply factors in their jurisdictions.
In 2018, government introduced a new requirement for local governments to produce housing needs reports every five years. The first reports were submitted by April 2022. The Province provided $5 million over three years to support this work.
According to an April 2022 report from the Homebuilders Association Vancouver, 19 out of 20 Metro Vancouver municipalities are not building enough housing to meet their projected population growth for 2040.
Initially, it is expected that housing targets will be established in consultation with approximately eight to 10 municipalities with the greatest need and highest projected growth. The targets will be based in part on information and advice provided by municipalities through their housing needs reports on housing demand and supply factors, and will include criteria, such as unit size and densities, tenure and affordability. Targets will also factor in community plans, projected population growth, economic projections, the local development environment and other relevant factors. Once a housing target is established in a municipality, the municipality will be required to report on its progress, including homes delivered and the actions taken or planned toward meeting the target.
The act will allow the Province to appoint an independent adviser to review the processes of municipalities that struggle to make progress on housing targets. The adviser would help the provincial government better understand unique challenges of the municipality and provide recommendations for actions the municipality or the Province could take to ensure housing targets are met.
The United Kingdom and California have similar housing target frameworks. California has been doing this since 1969 and the U.K. since the early 1980s. Target-setting in both jurisdictions is iterative as new information becomes available and lessons are learned. California has implemented compliance consequences, which allow the state to bar access to grants and loans, including those for infrastructure, if a local government does not fully participate in their targets process.
To support implementation, B.C. will continue to provide new tools and supports to local governments to help them speed up their local housing approvals processes through the continued implementation of the Development Approvals Process Review, as the Province also accelerates work to speed up provincial approvals.
In 2021, government provided $15 million to local governments to support the implementation of initiatives to improve and speed up development approvals processes, while meeting local government planning and policy objectives. Recent amendments to the Local Government Act also provide new tools to municipalities to help them speed up local approvals.
Strata Property Act amendments:
Amendments to the Strata Property Act will ban strata rental-restriction bylaws and limit age restrictions in strata housing to 55 and older, preserving seniors’ communities, while opening up housing options for families. These changes fulfil a recommendation of the Province’s Rental Housing Task Force.
Rental restriction bylaws have already been banned in strata corporations formed since Jan. 1, 2010. The change extends the ban on rental restrictions to stratas formed before that date. There are approximately 300,000 strata units built before 2010 that may still be subject to rental bans.
Data from the Speculation and Vacancy Tax shows that in areas of B.C. covered by the tax, there were nearly 2,900 vacant units in strata buildings with rental restrictions in 2021 – the last year the exemption was available before it phased out. If passed, age and rental restrictions would be lifted immediately, and these empty units will be available to renters.
Stratas that want to restrict short-term rentals, like AirBnBs, will still be encouraged to do so to ensure long-term rental options are available for British Columbians. The Province is working with municipalities to bring in further short-term rental restrictions in future legislative sessions. In addition, the Residential Tenancy Branch policy guidelines have been updated to state that a strata corporation can issue a notice to end a tenancy and apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for dispute resolution in place of the landlord, while recovering the costs of that application.
The Province is also making life easier for those who live in stratas by making electronic meetings a permanent option. During the COVID-19 pandemic, electronic meetings became a reliable and safe way to conduct strata operations and often increased owner participation. Electronic meetings may be held by phone or online via Zoom or Teams, for example, or as a hybrid both in-person and electronically.
If approved, this change would take effect immediately. The Province’s temporary regulation allowing stratas to hold electronic meetings was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022.
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