Housing crisis

BC Considers Legislation to Help Address Housing Crisis in Capital Region

It is considered a punch in the bow for local municipalities. The province says there are not enough units approved and built to meet demand.

Now the minister responsible for housing says he is considering legislation to modernize processes to speed up building development approvals. This, if the municipalities continue to drag their feet.

“We are seeing some areas where municipalities are simply refusing to approve needed housing,” said David Eby, BC Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing.

“What we want to do is get to a place where municipalities could say where housing should go, what it should look like, but not whether it’s going ahead or not.”

A Greater Victoria housing advocacy group welcomes Eby’s proposed reforms.

“The provincial government realized that housing reform was badly needed, long overdue and something had to change,” said Philip MacKellar of Homes For Living.

MacKellar’s group says Eby’s statement lacks specifics, but they would like to see the province assume the ability to rezone certain areas of a municipality.

“Rezoning at all levels would significantly help long-term supply,” MacKellar said.

Moreover, he would like to see a mandatory green light for the development.

“Which means if a development has been stalled for years and the board still hasn’t done anything, it automatically passes,” MacKellar said.

David Screech, the mayor of View Royal, says Eby’s comments shocked many councils in the area, including his own.

“The minister has to work with us and not decree what’s going to happen,” Screech said.

He says if the province took control of the council tables, the impacts could be devastating on communities.

“I think there’s a very real possibility that neighborhoods will be radically changed without input from elected officials who have been elected to serve their communities and I think that’s unforgivable, frankly,” Screech said.

A local developer has a different approach. It took 10 years for Reliance Properties to get permission to go ahead with the Northern Junk building in downtown Victoria.

“There’s too much emphasis on finer points and we’ve really fallen behind with our housing supply,” said Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties.

The end result was a 75% reduction in building size from what was originally proposed.

“Ultimately, only 47 rental units entered the market,” Stovell said.

He predicts that after the next municipal election, if councils have not committed to drastically increasing the number of approved housing units, the province will intervene.

“I think you’ll see action in the fall from the province to pick up the slack and impose mandatory targets on municipalities across the province,” Stovell said.

The attorney general says the province is currently considering all of its options and will have more to say in the coming months.