Candidates talk rental crisis

Castanet News reached out to candidates running in the ridings encompassing the Central Okanagan. These include Kelowna-Lake Country, Kelowna-Mission and Kelowna West. Each candidate was given the same six questions, and asked to respond by Monday, April 24.

Here are the answers to question three from those who replied. 

Question 3: The rental vacancy rate in the Central Okanagan remains below one per cent. How would you propose to specifically tackle this rental crisis?

Shelley Cook, BC NDP - Kelowna West  -  Ensuring people have access to adequate, suitable, affordable housing is the foundation to healthy communities where individuals, families and business can thrive.  

The BC NDP are committed to building 114,000 new affordable rental, non-profit, co-op and owner purchase housing units through partnerships over 10 years.  As MLA for Kelowna West, I will fight for every unit of housing I can get for my riding, and will work with local government, key stakeholders/user groups and the broader community to ensure the units best meet our local needs.

Housing units will be funded through a tax on speculation on our housing. People who buy property in Kelowna West, but don’t live or work here and leave property empty, will be charged a 2 per cent tax on speculation. All revenue collected will go into our BC Housing Affordability Fund. This tax will also help to make housing more affordable generally by releasing some of the pressure on the buyers housing market, allowing renters to move into their own homes and freeing up rental units.

We will work with the federal government to ensure that promised funds come to our province/community, and wherever possible, leverage more funds through additional partnerships.  We will invest in student housing by removing unnecessary rules that prevent universities and colleges from building affordable student housing. Whenever possible, we will use BC wood products to construct new housing in Kelowna West and throughout B.C.

Chuck Hardy, BC Conservatives - Kelowna-Mission  -  The big picture,  we should be helping everyone old to young...all ages. We are all the same, Canadians first, and help each other share in the good times. We have oil ,gas, water ,power and we still pay.

Harwinder Sandhu, BC NDP - Kelowna-Mission  -  We will take major steps to make housing more affordable with a comprehensive ten-year plan:

Through partnerships, we will build 114,000 new rental, social, co-op, and owner-purchased housing units.

We will crack down on the cheaters who are distorting B.C.’s housing market.

And, instead of the BC Liberals’ land giveaways to their developer friends, we’ll use public land to build housing that British Columbians can afford.

This major housing initiative will create thousands of stable, long-term jobs for B.C.’s construction workers and home builders, and thousands of secure homes for British Columbians.

Wherever possible, we will construct all types of housing from innovative B.C. manufactured wood products, creating new markets for BC wood products and new jobs in B.C.’s forest industry-based communities.

Steve Thomson, BC Liberals - Kelowna Mission  -  The Central Okanagan is not alone in this problem. Our government has been working hard to address the issue of affordable housing, beginning with a total investment of almost a billion dollars in the last year alone that will create close to 5,300 new units of affordable housing.

In addition, by supporting home buyers with a reduction in the property transfer tax and making interest free loans available to an estimated 42,000 first-time home buyers, through the BC HOME Partnership Program, we will be creating additional room in the rental market.

The rental housing issue is not a provincial issue alone. It requires a coordinated approach. And so our government is providing leadership in bringing both municipal and federal governments to the table, along with housing advocates from the non-profit and cooperative housing sectors to create new supply, improve affordability and work on related economic policies to support increasing incomes. 

Rainer Wilkins, Green Party - Kelowna-Mission  -  A BC Green Government would increase the availability of affordable housing:

  • BC Green government will invest up to $750 million per year in to support the construction of approximately 4,000 new units of affordable housing per year.
  • BC Green government will work with federal and local governments to make land available for the construction of affordable housing.
  • BC Green government will work with social housing agencies and federal and local governments to develop and implement a provincial housing plan to address deficiencies in the supply of affordable rental accommodation based on priority needs.
  • BC Green government will lead a comprehensive rethink of zoning to ensure that it is consistent with government objectives such as the provision of affordable housing. Issues for consideration include densification, especially along transit corridors; revitalizing neighbourhoods surrounding schools; cultural and social amenities; and complete communities.
  • A BC Green government will protect existing social housing and reduce operating costs by investing $100 million per year in retrofits and renovations of older units.
  • Green government will partner with First Nations, non-profit developers, cooperatives and the private sector to support planning and construction of low income rental units.
  • Green government will introduce incentives for the construction of, and/or conversion of existing buildings for rental property.

Norm Letnick, BC Liberals - Kelowna-Lake Country  -  There is a shortage of both affordable rental and owner occupied housing in our area. Both municipal and provincial levels of governments have taken steps to help including increasing densities, allowing secondary suites, working to improve development permit application times and providing incentives for purpose built rental housing.

Province-wide we have made the largest single-year investment of $920 million to create nearly 5,300 new units of affordable housing. We are also reducing the property transfer tax for first time home buyers and offering an interest free loan to an estimated 42,000 first time home buyers for up to $37,500 to help them with their down payment.

As they enter the ownership market, they will create room in the rental market. In addition, if elected, I would use the experience I gained as the President of a not-for-profit Housing Corporation in Banff from 1993-1998 to help increase the amount of entry-level rental and below-market owner occupied housing here in our community. Over seven projects, the Banff Housing Corporation helped more than 200 families achieve their dream of affordable housing.

Alison Shaw, Green Party, Kelowna-Lake Country  -  The rental vacancy rate in the Central Okanagan remains below one per cent. How would you propose to specifically tackle this rental crisis? Everyone has the right to a place to live. Affordable housing is yet another issue the BC Liberals have downloaded to municipalities and left them to figure out.

The real estate market has contributed substantially to the provincial GDP, which is why it has been neglected, but this has come at a significant cost. Right now, the speculation market is driving up the costs of homes, making it unaffordable for average British Columbians to access affordable shelter.

We would double the foreign buyers tax to 30 per cent and increase the property transfer tax on those not intending to live in homes to discourage flipping. These strategies will be applied across the province to begin protecting those in the Central Okanagan from the same struggles that residents in Vancouver have faced trying to get into the housing market.

Right now my family and I have been looking for over six months for a house to rent or own that fits within our budgets. We are two working professionals who have not been able to find a place long-term. I cannot even imagine what others must be facing.

In Kelowna-Lake Country rental vacancy rates are ridiculously low while rents are exorbitantly high, among the highest in Canada. In addition to discouraging speculation which will open more units to rent, the BC Greens Affordable Homes Strategy will support the construction of 4000 more affordable housing units a
year, provide incentives for the creation and protection of rental housing, and will enhance the Residential Tenancy Act to control rent increases and protect tenants from the rent creep that is incentivized in this type of climate.

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