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Nov 23, 2023

The Province Goes Big on Housing Policy – A First Look

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By Brenna Friesen,
Policy Analyst

In April 2023, the provincial government announced the Homes for People plan, which focuses on addressing British Columbia’s urgent housing crisis through four priorities:

  1. unlocking more homes faster;
  2. delivering better, more affordable homes;
  3. helping those with the greatest housing needs; and
  4. creating a housing market for people rather than speculators.

Fall 2023 has seen numerous federal and provincial policy measures initiated to address the housing crisis, including those in the federal 2023 Fall Economic Statement.

The provincial government has introduced several pieces of housing legislation aiming to fulfill the Homes for People plan priorities. While we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to provide an analysis once the regulatory details are disclosed, below is a summary of what the provincial government has proposed to date.

Short-Term Rentals
On October 16, 2023, Bill 35: Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act was introduced and will change how short-term rentals operate in BC. The legislation focuses on three key areas:

  1. increasing fines and strengthening tools for local governments;
  2. returning more short-term rentals to long-term homes; and
  3. establishing provincial rules and enforcement.

The legislation will not apply to hotels and motels and regulations will exempt additional types of properties not intended to be covered under the scope of the legislation.

Small-Scale, Multi-Unit Housing
The provincial government introduced Bill 44: Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act on November 1, 2023, which will permit one secondary suite or laneway home in all BC communities. In most municipalities of more than 5,000 people, the legislation will require bylaws allowing:

  • three to four units on single-family zoned or duplex use lots;
  • six units on larger single-family zoned or duplex use lots near transit stops with frequent service.

The legislation shifts local planning and zoning processes to happen up front at the Official Community Plan (OCP) stage and will phase out one-off public hearings for housing project rezonings that align with OCPs.

Housing Development Financing
On November 7, 2023, the provincial government introduced Bill 46: Housing Statutes (Development Financing) Amendment Act, which will require local governments to shift to up-front planning processes, pre-zone land for housing, and reduce current rezoning processes. The legislation provides high-growth communities with a development-finance tool called an amenity cost charge, which replaces the community amenity contribution, and will give a more transparent initial understanding of housing project costs. The legislation also proposes changes to the development cost charge/levy mechanism to allow funds from homebuilders to support additional services and infrastructure.

Transit-Oriented Development
The government introduced Bill 47: Housing Statutes (Transit-Oriented Areas) Amendment Act on November 8, 2023, which will require municipal designation of Transit Oriented Development Areas (TOD Areas) near transit hubs, where municipalities will be required to:

  • permit housing developments that meet provincial standards for allowable height and density;
  • remove restrictive parking minimums and allow parking based on need and demand; and
  • utilize the provincial policy manual standards to provide consistent TOD Area development approaches.

Speculation and Vacancy Tax
The provincial government announced the expanded Speculation and Vacancy Tax Regulation to 13 new municipalities on November 22, 2023. Effective January 1, 2024, the speculation and vacancy tax will be applied to the following municipal boundaries:

  • Vernon, Coldstream;
  • Penticton, Summerland;
  • Lake Country, Peachland;
  • Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland;
  • Parksville, Qualicum Beach;
  • Salmon Arm; and
  • Kamloops.

Residential property owners in these communities will need to declare for the first time in January 2025 based on how they used their property in 2024. BCREA is closely watching this announcement regarding the topic of exclusions for tourist destinations and will update membership as more detailed legislation becomes available.

While BCREA supports the provincial government’s efforts to improve housing attainability, we strongly endorse the need for more thorough, evidence-based housing policies. This is why BCREA and a diverse collection of housing stakeholders have repeatedly called for the establishment of a permanent housing roundtable to inform government policy and avoid the negative unintended consequences from the siloed consultative approach governments have adopted thus far. We will continue to advocate for the more thoughtful policymaking process needed to alleviate the housing crisis facing British Columbians.

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Author profile photo
By Brenna Friesen,
Policy Analyst

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