B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan have put a heavy emphasis on housing construction. (Chad Hipolito/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. welcomes Ottawa’s help on rental housing construction

Federal funds slow to arrive for child care, marijuana, Carole James says

Targeted funds in Tuesday’s federal budget to increase construction of rental housing adds to B.C.’s own effort to increase the supply of affordable homes, B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says.

Ottawa’s budget commits more than $1 billion to a fund for low-interest loans to builders of rental projects.

“I was glad to see the rental housing mentioned in the federal budget, but I haven’t seen any long-term plans,” James said. B.C. launched a 10-year housing plan last week.

James also praised the measure in federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s budget to increase data collection on housing purchases to identify the beneficial owner behind numbered companies and trusts that buy real estate. B.C.’s budget last week increased the foreign buyer tax from 15 to 20 per cent, and introduced Canada’s first speculation tax on empty homes, in a bid to cool down high urban housing prices and encourage long-term rentals.

But the federal budget’s multi-year spending plan doesn’t begin immediately, with Morneau continuing to deal with deficits three times as big as what he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in 2015.

James was also concerned about immediate effects of federal spending on other areas of interest to B.C., including child care and preparing for the legalization of marijuana.

“We put $1 billion into child care, a major investment into helping women back into the workforce,” James said. “But it’s a long-term plan and long-term funds are going to be necessary.”

Morneau’s budget includes $65 million to provide education on marijuana use. James said education is needed, as other jurisdictions have found, but B.C. needs help with licensing marijuana production and roadside enforcement of cannabis-impaired drivers.

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