B.C.'s $500-million housing affordability plan to create new rental units: Clark

Rob Shaw, Cheryl Chan | Vancouver Sun

VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark says B.C. will use half a billion dollars in profits from the real estate sector to make the largest investment in new rental units in the province’s history.

Clark said 2,900 new rental units will be created as the government partners with non-profit groups, community agencies and the private sector to build a mix of new housing. That could include government purchasing existing homes and condos from private developers and earmarking them for lower-income residents.

“This is by far the biggest amount that any government has invested in British Columbia’s history in affordable housing, and now is the time,” she said. She acknowledged it’s not going to solve the entire problem but is part of continued announcements on the housing file.

Her government said the new housing would help “low-to moderate-income renters, seniors, youth, students, adults with developmental disabilities, Aboriginal people and women and children.”

The plan is funded with $500 million in real estate tax profits the government set aside last week for housing affordability projects.

The projects must be approved by March 2017, the end of government’s fiscal year, and completed over the following 24 to 36 months, the government said. Specific projects will be announced “in the coming months,” said a news release.

The new money is in addition to $355 million over five years — to create 2,000 new affordable housing units — that the government announced in February.

A government news release said the types of projects for consideration include purchasing or building housing for: youth aging out of care at 18 years old, seniors in rural areas, seniors in urban areas, students in partnership with post-secondary institutions, repurposed units for youth in transition, on and off reserve aboriginal housing, single women and children fleeing abuse, and “strategic acquisitions” to protect the supply of affordable rental housing.

The announcement is part of what the premier has billed as her “six key principles” to respond to the housing affordability crisis. That included removing the real estate industry’s ability to police itself and instituting a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax on Metro Vancouver real estate purchases.

Clark has also said her government needs to emphasize increasing the supply of housing and rental units, help first-time buyers get into the market, and increase density along planned new transit lines.

The Liberal government has been criticized for its slow response to the housing crisis, and for not intervening sooner as prices skyrocketed and foreign investment increased.

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