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BC: Setting housing targets for municipalities
The other shoe drops.
Frances Bula, May 2021:
A number of signals in recent months indicate that Attorney General and Housing Minister David Eby—a lawyer and one-time civil liberties advocate—is ready to adopt some measures similar to the wave of new pro-housing laws that various American states have introduced in recent years. “We’re looking at absolutely anything to address the affordable-housing crisis,” Minister Eby notes. “We are looking at American jurisdictions.”
Bula cites an example:
In one of the more memorable decisions in the region after [the 2018] election, the District of North Vancouver turned down an affordable-housing project that was not going to displace any existing renters (it was on empty land next to a community center), was being proposed by a non-profit that planned to rent out the apartments for an amount significantly below current market rates, and was going to reserve part of the housing for seniors.
Eby is now BC premier. He was sworn in on November 18. On November 21, he announced provincial legislation (the Housing Supply Act) to set housing targets for municipalities, based on the housing needs reports that the province already requires them to produce. The legislation passed last week.
What’s in the legislation? Text of Bill 43, the Housing Supply Act. The most interesting section describes what happens if a municipal government fails to comply, i.e. isn’t allowing enough housing to meet the target:
6 (1) This Part applies if the minister determines, after reviewing a housing target progress report submitted by a specified municipality under section 4 (3) (b) (ii), that the specified municipality
(a) has not met a housing target that applies to it, and
(b) has not made satisfactory progress toward meeting the housing target.
(2) If the minister makes a determination referred to in subsection (1), the minister may do one or both of the following:
(a) appoint one or more advisors under section 8 [advisor] in relation to the specified municipality;
(b) issue a directive under section 11 [directive] to the specified municipality.
The province has the explicit power to override the municipality:
12 (1) If a specified municipality fails to comply with a directive issued under section 11 (1), the Lieutenant Governor in Council [i.e. the provincial cabinet], on the recommendation of the minister, may, by order, do one or both of the following:
(a) enact or amend a bylaw referred to in section 584 (1) [ministerial override orders in the public interest] of the Local Government Act;
(b) issue or refuse to issue a permit that the specified municipality may issue under the Community Charter, the Local Government Act, the Vancouver Charter or a prescribed enactment.
(2) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make an order under subsection (1) in relation to a specified municipality only if satisfied that
(a) the benefit of making the order is greater than the benefit of not making it,
(b) no less onerous alternative would result in the specified municipality meeting, or making satisfactory progress toward meeting, a housing target that applies to it, and
(c) making the order is in the public interest.
(3) On the date specified in an order made under subsection (1),
(a) any bylaw enacted or amended under the order is conclusively deemed to be enacted or amended, as applicable, by the specified municipality in accordance with the order,
(b) any permit issued under the order is conclusively deemed to be issued by the specified municipality in accordance with the order, and
(c) any refusal to issue a permit under the order is conclusively deemed to be a refusal by the specified municipality to issue the permit in accordance with the order.
(4) An order made under subsection (1) must specify a period, not exceeding 2 years from the date the order is made, for the purposes of subsection (5).
(5) Except with the consent of the Lieutenant Governor in Council, a specified municipality must not, before the expiry of the period specified in an order made under subsection (1) in relation to the specified municipality, do any of the following:
(a) in the case of a bylaw referred to in subsection (3) (a), amend or repeal the bylaw;
(b) in the case of a permit referred to in subsection (3) (b), amend or cancel the permit;
(c) in the case of a refusal to issue a permit referred to in subsection (3) (c), issue a permit that is substantially the same as the permit that was refused.
(6) This section and section 11 apply despite any provision of the Community Charter, the Local Government Act, the Vancouver Charter or a prescribed enactment.
Two other changes announced at the same time:
In addition, the Province is making amendments to the Strata Property Act to end all strata rental-restriction bylaws and to limit age-restriction bylaws so that the only permitted age restriction is to preserve and promote seniors' housing through the “55 and over” rule in strata housing. Some buildings have “19+ only” age restrictions that mean couples starting a family have to plan to move out as soon as they become pregnant.
Stratas will still be able to restrict short-term rentals.
The province estimates that removing strata rental restrictions will immediately add about 3000 apartments to the long-term rental stock. (For comparison, the Senakw project is adding about 6000 rental apartments.) It’s a one-time boost.
One further announcement is that the province will establish a standalone housing ministry. Given the shortage of housing in BC, this seems like a good idea.
New premier, new housing policy. (Jens von Bergmann and Nathan Lauster, November 24)
Premiers David Eby and Doug Ford promise housing. But they’re not doing enough to make it happen. (A skeptical Globe and Mail editorial, November 22)
B.C. Housing Minister eager to spur supply. Globe and Mail, January 22. “I’m sure you can hear in my voice that my patience is really worn thin by some of the activities I’m seeing in various municipalities; turning down rental housing to frustrate BC Housing developments … refusing to approve new rental units in a time of a housing crisis. I could run through many examples from across the province.”
Some earlier posts: