In an effort to inform the Courtenay-Comox riding constituents, we have supplied all candidates with a question. Each week, we will publish their answers to questions pertinent to this riding.
In this article, the three Courtenay-Comox candidates address the following topic: “A widely accepted definition of affordable housing is housing that costs no more than 30 per cent of the household income. (That calculation is 40 years old but the cost of housing has climbed exponentially faster than the income level in the past 40 years.) How does your party plan on addressing the affordable housing crisis in B.C.?” (300-word maximum). Order of placement was done at random.
BC Green Party
The high cost of housing and lack of rentals have created many challenges for the Comox Valley, making it hard to attract healthcare professionals, educators, businesses and service providers. 45 per cent of renters pay more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and Indigenous households, seniors, young families, youth aging out of foster care, single parents, immigrants and people with disabilities experience a lack of appropriate and affordable options. The BC Greens will introduce a $500 million rental supplement program to close the gap between affordable rent and what renters are actually paying. To ensure that everyone has a home, we will take a ‘housing first’ approach and accelerate investment in affordable, supportive and social housing on a priority basis.
BC Greens will establish a capital fund to support the acquisition and maintenance of affordable rental housing by non-profits. Co-op housing will be supported through extending leases about to expire, creating a land bank for new co-ops, and providing security of tenure for co-ops on leased land. We will work with a taskforce of strata owners, insurance brokers and insurers on the problem of unaffordable strata insurance premiums as soon as the BC Financial Services Authority investigation is completed.
And what’s a home without a safe neighbourhood? BC Greens will help fund initiatives to create more climate-friendly communities with expanded transit options, bike lane and walking trail networks and more parks and green spaces. We also want to keep your family and home as safe as can be by providing $100 million over four years to make communities resilient to extreme weather and natural disasters like wildfire and flooding, and $50 million to protect watersheds that keep B.C.’s drinking water safe. We think that’s a better use of your tax dollars than giving billion-dollar LNG subsidies to multinationals.
We all suffer when there is not a safe, affordable home for everyone. Affordable housing is another long emergency, years in the making. In 2003, one local real estate expert predicted our housing crisis would be an unavoidable trainwreck. Speculation drove up prices far beyond people’s income and fueled a lack of rentals, driving up rental costs and increasing homelessness. The BC Liberal government turned a blind eye to the skyrocketing cost of housing.
Our John Horgan government was quick to introduce our $7 billion, 10 year Homes for BC Plan, the largest such investment in BC’s history. Of the 25,000 housing units that have already been built or are underway, people in Courtenay-Comox have benefited from an increased supply of affordable housing, but we know it is not enough.
We’ve learned, on average, renters here earn $35,000 less per year than homeowners, nearly 30 per cent spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, 14 per cent spending more than 50 per cent. The COVID19 pandemic has hurt low-income earners, particularly women and children, more than most. People on fixed incomes are also vulnerable. Direct housing programs and other policies to support these renters need to address the income gap and their core housing need.
We will freeze rent increases to the end of 2021, provide a renter’s rebate of $400/year for households earning up to $80,000/year, increase the number of rent supplements, and build more supportive housing. We’ll look to bring construction costs down through the development approval process and facilitate affordable housing construction near public transit.
Through the Housing Hub we launched in 2018, we’ll provide more low-interest loans for thousands more homes for middle-income families, expand the Housing Hub to partner with non-profits and co-op housing, and find new pathways to homeownership like rent-to-own. Moving forward for everyone!
BC Liberal Party
British Columbia, particularly the Comox Valley, is increasingly growing. This beautiful area is attracting people from across the country, and with an annual immigration of 60,000 people to B.C. the demand for housing continues to rise.
Until recently, the Comox Valley’s housing stock has been predominantly single-family homes, with little to no focus on densifying urban centres with multifamily units. Our municipal zoning, and community plans have reflected this; while we have started to shift to more densified cores, the area is still well behind.
Housing starts across B.C. are down by 30 per cent compared to last year, and if this trend continues housing demand will persist to outstrip supply. The BC Liberals will establish an incentive fund for changes to municipal housing policies and taxes to increase the construction and supply of new housing, particularly toward the desperate need for rental housing.
We will work with municipalities to review the current property tax structure to incentivize affordable housing development, prevent speculation, and drive affordable rental housing. Additionally, we will provide immediate relief and regulatory oversight to thwart the astronomical increases we are seeing on strata insurance throughout British Columbia.
The NDP has failed on this file; with only 2,963 housing units of their promised 114,000 units now completed, this has become a 100-year plan. We cannot ignore the private sector as a tool to increase supply on this issue and expect the government to solely shoulder the financial costs. The BC Liberal plan to commit $750 million over three years in capital funding, combined with a targeted look at the red tape hindering development, is the most sensible way forward for real progress on this file. I will remain committed to preserving the character of the Comox Valley, while working towards more affordable housing for all citizens.