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BC Govt Housing Policies Challenged at UBCM

Local govts are challenging the BC govt’s Speculation Tax and other housing policies at the Union of BC Municipalities convention (UBCM) Sept 10-14 in Whistler.

Resolutions by Langford, CRD, Nanaimo, Oak Bay, and Lower Mainland Local Govt Association are asking for opting out, postponement or changes to the Speculation Tax, revealing the province’s lack of consultation and poor policy development.

The Speculation Tax wrongly targets out-of-province Canadians and retired British Columbians as the cause of rising housing prices.

Since announcement of the tax, housing projects have been cancelled or postponed resulting in declining sales and lay-offs.

In reality, demand is being fuelled by a large millennial demographic getting traction in a strong economy and starting families. This was predicted in David Foot’s best seller Boom, Bust & Echo.

By allowing 13 municipalities in the CRD, the BC govt undermined responsible regional planning and housing affordability. They also choked housing with restrictive greenbelts, added taxes including Property Transfer Tax, Speculation Tax and School Tax, and layered on risky and costly building regulations like Step Code.

According to the CD Howe Institute, these regulations and taxes add more than a quarter million dollars to new housing costs in the CRD.

The exception is Langford offering the most affordable new homes through creative zoning and efficient development processes.

Other UBCM resolutions include municipal requests to allow financing of energy efficiency retrofits through local improvement charges. Older homes are the main source of GHGs and retrofits can save 20 to 30 air changes per hour. The debt stays with the house in the form of property taxes until paid off.

The UBCM resolutions demonstrate the province’s policies are out of sync with municipalities, in addition to the public and industry.

Change is overdue.

This column appears Wednesdays in the Times Colonist.

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