Ravi Kahlon said the “time for talking” about housing is over.
B.C.’s housing minister previewed new pieces of legislation that promise to increase density on single-residential lots and legalize secondary suites across B.C. in what some might call a ‘love it or lump it’ message Friday morning.
“We now need to start taking action,” he said in Victoria accompanied by transportation minister Rob Fleming. “So I suspect, many communities will be happy and some communities may not be, but we are in a housing crisis.”
Kahlon said his government would bring forward legislation that would allow duplexes, triplexes and townhomes to be built on land currently zoned for single-family detached homes.
“These kinds of buildings can be built much faster and can help address the challenges we are dealing with,” he said.
Kahlon added that government will be working with local governments, various partners including not-for-profits and the construction sector to help identify zoning challenges.
“This zoning change that we’ll bringing will help reduce costs, delays associated with expensive, time-intensive rezoning processes and (ensure) efficient use of existing infrastructures, amenities and of course, roads and services,” he said.
He added that government consulted widely, but also signalled its intention to move forward.
“My message to the local government is, ‘we hear you on your advice,’ but it is time for us to get going and get this type of housing built in communities so that we can have housing for people, but also vibrant healthy communities.
“I’m not going to tell you on what day, but I will say that much of the legislation in our Homes for People strategy will be coming this fall,” he said. Some pieces of legislation will start immediately.
“(In) some cases, communities will have a little bit of time to adjust to the policies that we are bringing in. (By) the end of the session, we expect all of that to have passed and the changes being implemented in communities.”
He added some specific items will unfold in phases, pointing to promised support for secondary suites under a pilot project.
The first phase was releasing a guide for homeowners who want to create secondary suites. The second will be legislation, which will make them legal around the province.
“The third (phase) is the funds which will come online early in the new year, which will allow those that are ready to go to be able to apply and get going right away. So it’s all coordinated.”
Other soon-to-be-tabled pieces of legislation will strengthen enforcement of short-term rentals and bring more long-term rentals back to the housing market; speed up municipal and provincial permitting to reduce costs; and deliver “thousands of new homes” in areas well-served by transit.
Kahlon previewed this legislative agenda after having announced new housing targets of new 60,000 units in 10 municipalities over five years.
While key municipal leaders including Mayor Ken Sim of Vancouver, Mayor Marianne Alto of Victoria and Mayor Dean Murdock of Saanich (the largest municipality on Vancouver Island), have endorsed the targets specifically and the provincial approach generally, Mayor Kevin Murdoch of the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay has signalled his municipality will struggle to meet its target of 664 new units, unless it receives additional supports.
Bordered by Victoria and Saanich, the wealthy ocean-side community has long history of slow approval processes and opposition to development at large.
“I do understand Mayor Murdoch and he understand the challenge as well, because I have spoken with him about it,” Kahlon said. “He knows the challenges are real. Now it’s going to require us to have those tough conversations in our communities. It’s going to require for us to go back, build our community plans…work with us and other partners to build infrastructure,” he said. “The path is there. We just need to get to work.”
Kahlon said legislation gives government the “ability to step” and “a stick” if necessary. “But I’m hopeful that communities do understand and the will take advantage of the opportunities that we are creating to build housing,” he said.
He added that government will check in with all municipalities with the first opportunity coming after six months.
“But this is not a ‘wait-til-five-years-and-then-see-what-they-have-done’ strategy,” Kahlon said. “This is ‘work-with-them every-single-month, work-with-them-every-week-if-needed’ to find ways for them to be able to reach their targets. This is not a ‘you-are-on-your-own-decision.’ We are with you.”