B.C. NDP platform promises 114,000 new rental, co-op, social, and owner-purchase homes

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      Earlier this month, I took the B.C NDP to task for not bringing forward comprehensive solutions to the shortage of rental units in the Lower Mainland.

      A few days later, the B.C. Rental Housing Coalition released a report saying $1.8 billion per year needed to be invested over 10 years to address the provincial housing crisis. And it suggested that 7,000 rental units per year would be required over the next decade.

      Since then, the B.C. NDP has released a housing policy indicating that it understands the scope of the problem.

      Its platform promises to build 114,000 rental, social, co-op, and owner-purchase homes "through partnerships" over 10 years.

      "Increasing the supply of housing is the best way to make housing more affordable and keep it affordable," the B.C. NDP platform states. "John Horgan and the BC NDP will fix the shortage. We will work with all levels of government, First Nations and the not-for-profit and private sectors, to secure land and build needed housing."

      The platform notes that these homes "will be a mix of housing for students, singles, seniors, and families and will range from supported social housing to quality, market rental housing".

      "In urban and suburban centres, we'll build near transit hubs," the B.C. NDP says. "And, instead of the BC Liberals' land giveaways to their developer friends, we'll use public land to build housing British Columbians can afford."

      This will include "removing unnecessary rules that prevent universities and colleges from building affordable student housing".

      Municipal and regional governments oversee land-use planning, but the province has the power to pass legislation overriding this authority.

      In the past, the B.C. Liberal government prevented Metro Vancouver from imposing restrictions on real-estate development on UBC's Point Grey campus.

      In 2013 shortly after being elected as B.C. NDP MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, David Eby criticized a provision in the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act that made it difficult for colleges and universities to finance student housing on campuses.

      Eby's earlier remarks along with the B.C. NDP platform promise suggest that if the party wins the election, it may allow postsecondary institutions to take on self-supporting debt to build more dorms on B.C. campuses.

      "This major housing initiative will create thousands of stable, long-term jobs for BC's construction workers and home builders, and thousands of secure homes for British Columbians," the B.C. NDP states in its platform. "Wherever possible, we will construct all types of housing from innovative BC manufactured wood products, creating new markets for BC wood products and new jobs in BC's forest industry-based communities."

      That's in addition to the party's promises to provide a $400 annual rebate to renters and to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prohibit fixed-term leases. The platform also pledges to provide fair treatment for tenants during renovations and demolitions.

      That's not all: the B.C. NDP also says it will not leave people in the lurch when federal funding expires for co-op housing.

      B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan promises to do all of this while still aiming to balance the budget in every year. But the platform promises that this will not be "at the expense of children, seniors, families and the most vulnerable".

      The party's fiscal plan anticipates new revenue and savings of $530 million and new operating investments of $717 million in the first year after the election. This would shave the B.C. government's projected surplus from $295 million to $108 million.

      In year two, there would be an additional $1.15 billion in new revenue and savings and an additional $1.26 billion in new operating investments. This would shrink the projected surplus from $244 million to $133 million.

      The platform doesn't spell out how much will be spent on these housing initiatives. But it does point to new revenue sources.

      They include a one percent hike in the corporate tax rate, reinstatement of a high-income surtax that generated $250 million per year, and a two percent speculation tax. 

      The latter would apply to people who buy property in B.C. but don't live or work in the province and who leave their homes vacant.