2021 Advocacy Year-In-Review

Dec 13, 2021

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Posted by
Matt Mayers
Senior Policy Analyst

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This year was full of significant changes for the real estate sector in BC. REALTORS® continued to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and many assisted communities hit by historic rainfalls in a number of ways, including fundraising to support the Red Cross.

2021 was also filled with significant government interventions impacting the sector. Here’s a recap of significant actions by the BC Government from this past year.

Cullen Continues Inquiry into Money Laundering

The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in BC (Cullen Commission) continued to examine a series of sectors, including real estate, throughout 2021. BCREA Chief Executive Officer Darlene Hyde and Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson were participants in the Cullen Commission, during which they answered questions about the real estate sector and demonstrated how BCREA has supported Realtors by equipping them with tools to help identify and combat money laundering. These tools included developing a course for managing brokers and compliance officers, and providing resources on filing Suspicious Transaction Reports and other FINTRAC requirements.

Oral submissions to the Cullen Commission ended in October 2021. The Cullen Commission was recently granted an extension for submitting their final report, which will now be published on May 20, 2022. We look forward to the release of the final report and will continue advocating for smart policy to ensure integrity and transparency in supporting Realtors to help identify and combat money laundering in real estate.

BC Real Estate Sector Moves to Single Regulator

For the second time in five years, the real estate regulatory system was restructured. In March 2021, the government passed amendments to the Real Estate Services Act, resulting in a new regulatory body for real estate, the BC Financial Services Authority (BCFSA). In addition to real estate, BCFSA also regulates credit unions, trust companies, insurance companies, mortgage brokers and pension plans.

At BCREA, we are hopeful about the potential of the shift away from a dual-regulator model, which had its challenges. We do, however, have several ongoing areas of concern that we are continuing to advocate for as we continue regular meetings with senior staff at BCFSA. We will continue to call for the creation of a Professional Standing Committee to establish licensing qualifications and provide on-the-ground insights into all proposed changes to real estate practice.

Actions Taken to Improve Housing Supply

While there is no single solution to housing affordability in BC, governments can have the greatest impact by encouraging increased housing supply. A recent BCREA Market Intelligence report estimates in March 2021, 67,000 buyers were searching for homes across BC while only 24,000 listings were available. In November 2021, total active residential listings were down 40 per cent year-over-year an all-time record low for the province. These numbers highlight the undersupplied housing market in the face of surging demand.

There has, however, been some progress made by the provincial government on increasing housing supply in the past year, including:

  • speeding up local government’s development approvals processes by removing the default requirement for local governments to hold public hearings for zoning bylaw amendments that are consistent with Official Community Plans,
  • enabling local governments to delegate decisions on minor development variance permits to staff so they can also work towards decreasing approval times and
  • providing grants to local governments to create more efficient development approvals processes.

Undoubtedly, there is still much more to be done to reduce the imbalance between housing supply and demand in BC. We are calling for the government to implement other supply-side measures and calls to action made by the Development Approvals Process Review and the Expert Panel on Housing Supply and Affordability alongside fulsome consultation with the real estate sector.

These are just a few significant developments from the BC Government and on which BCREA will continue to focus on closely into the new year. Other policies that will reverberate into 2022 is the recently announced cooling off period and the fallout from the federal election, which included a promise by the Liberal Party to introduce a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights.

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