Opposition MLA pans government housing legislation

Adding to 'housing chaos'

“I don’t care about your policy. I’m mad, and you need to fix it.”

That statement hit me hard. The retort came as I was talking to a young university student about BC United’s first (proposed) affordability measures. Yes, affordability measures are important, but this student’s fears were far greater than one tank of gasoline.

Salaries, jobs, affordability are all important. But most concerning is housing. We have a housing crisis. The highest rents in Canada and the worst housing affordability in North America (can be found in B.C.). That’s where we are today.

The (provincial) government has come out with a significant suite of bills, specifically designed to address this crisis. I would argue the recent legislative actions of the government, including Bills 35, 42, 44, 46, and 47, paint a picture of a government more inclined towards creating chaos in the housing sector than offering immediate, pragmatic solutions.

Each bill, while cloaked in the promise of addressing the housing crisis, falls short in providing effective short-term relief for those struggling in the current market.

Let me explain what I mean by that.

Bill 35, the Short Term Accommodations Act, is a superficial response to a deeper issue. It attempts to balance the tourism sector's benefits with residents' housing needs in Kelowna.

However, the bill's limited scope and lack of immediate measures fail to address the urgent housing needs of residents, doing little to alleviate the current market pressures. Instead of a reasonable attempt to provide enforcement for bad actors, the bill takes the vast majority of short-term rentals out of the market.

Bill 42, which proposes changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, illustrates the government's preference for bureaucratic expansion over practical solutions. The bill's intent, to expedite the Residential Tenancy Branch processes through facilitated settlements, is overshadowed by the ongoing inefficiencies and backlog within the system. The legislative changes, far from providing immediate relief, are likely to prolong the existing chaos, exacerbating the struggles of both landlords and tenants.

Anyone in the rental sector knows that there are huge issues with the Residential Tenancy Act, and this is one of the reasons short-term rentals were chosen by some owners over long-term (rentals), despite the additional workload created by the shorter duration.

Rather than fix the system, this is more tinkering around the edges, which could result in more disruption rather than progress.

Bill 44's approach to increasing housing density is a classic example of misguided planning. The bill's lack of detailed implementation strategies and failure to address crucial barriers, such as high development cost charges (DCCs) demonstrates a disconnection from the real housing needs. All single-family lots will now be (allowed) three, four or six units.

That may result in higher property taxes, as property is taxed at the “highest and best use”, and most assuredly will result in higher land values. New Zealand shows us that property values increased by 12% after implementing this exact same zoning.

The bill’s promise of 130,000 new homes over the next decade is a drop in the ocean compared to the actual requirement, doing little to resolve the affordability crisis in the short-term.

Bill 46 exacerbates the affordability crisis by introducing amenity cost charges (ACCs) and expanding DCCs, further burdening new homebuyers and renters. The legislation, instead of offering relief, adds financial strain to an already overburdened housing market.

The inclusion of costs like policing in DCCs is a particularly alarming move, revealing a hidden agenda to finance other initiatives at the expense of new homeowners. It fails to realize that while development paying for growth is necessary, adding additional costs to development only increases the prices of homes.

In summary, the B.C. government's recent legislative actions, while portraying an image of addressing the housing crisis, are more likely to contribute to its escalation. There are no solutions that will have a positive impact before the next election.

These bills, with their lengthy implementation timelines and lack of immediate impact, fail to offer the short-term solutions desperately needed by British Columbians.

The government's approach seems to be adding layers of complexity and cost, rather than simplifying and easing the housing market for those in need.

What British Columbia needs is a government willing to implement effective, immediate measures that can provide tangible relief to those caught in the throes of the housing crisis.

We need solutions to the housing crisis, not housing chaos.

My question to you is this:

What do you think of these latest changes to housing?

I love to hear from you and read every email. Please email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the B.C. United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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