By Premier John Horgan
There’s nothing better than seeing someone get the keys to their new home for the first time. Last year, I had the honour of being with Joelle and her daughter when they toured their new 2-bedroom apartment in a new affordable rental housing development on Vancouver Island, funded by the Province’s Building BC: Community Housing Fund. Their faces lit up when they took the keys, knowing that they finally have a new, secure and safe place to live, at a price they can afford.
An out-of-control housing market left too many British Columbians unable to afford a place to call home. People had to make difficult choices in order to stay in B.C., and many were moving away. This is bad for people, bad for communities and bad for the economy.
Our government is taking bold steps to tackle the housing crisis and deliver the affordable homes British Columbians need. In Budget 2018, we launched Homes for B.C., government’s housing plan and the largest investment in housing affordability in B.C.’s history—$7 billion over 10 years.
With new government funding and partnerships with municipalities, Indigenous communities, non-profits and housing groups, we are working toward building 114,000 homes, including student housing, seniors housing, social housing, Indigenous housing, and affordable rentals for middle-income families. In less than two years, more than 21,000 new affordable government-funded housing units are underway.
Through programs like the Community Housing Fund – which is investing a record $1.9 billion over 10 years – our government is building more than 14,000 affordable rental homes for seniors, families and low- and middle-income earners, like Joelle. Like so many people in our communities, her income was too high to qualify for subsidized housing, but too low for her to easily afford rent in this housing market.
For too long, speculators have been using the real estate market like a stock market, driving up housing costs for everyone else. In Greater Vancouver, the benchmark price for a single-family home increased 75% in just five years. That’s not sustainable.
We introduced the speculation and vacancy tax to target speculators who own homes in B.C., but do not pay tax here. And it’s working. This tax is turning empty units into homes for people and families. Our government also increased the foreign buyers tax to 20% to make sure foreign buyers are fairly contributing to provincial services and programs in return for the high quality of life they enjoy in B.C. We’re seeing strong indications that moderation and stability are returning to B.C.’s housing market, as a direct result of the measures we put in place.
We also launched a public inquiry into money laundering to help us crack down on the estimated $5 billion in “dirty money” laundered through B.C. real estate. That dirty money has hiked the price of buying a home by as much as 20% in areas like Metro Vancouver. We’ve also introduced world leading legislation that will reveal the true owners of real estate holdings, giving the authorities more tools to fight tax evasion and money laundering. Meanwhile the public inquiry will help us identify better protections to shut out money laundering and keep our economy strong and working for people, not organized crime.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. I smile when I think of families around the province holding keys to their new homes for the first time. We are finally on a new path to a future where every British Columbian has the home they need and deserve. I’m excited.