Victoria: Everywhere I go, people are talking about housing.
I hear about young families who can’t afford to buy a home to put down roots. I hear about renters who are losing one home after another in the unstable market.
I hear about companies that can’t recruit talented young people to B.C. anymore, because our cost of living is just too high. And the question I hear, over and over, is: why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? Christy Clark would like people in this province to think that affordability isn’t her problem.
Well, the fact is, she’s had one opportunity after another to address the housing crisis in this province. And every time, she’s settled on rhetoric and half measures.
Last week brought yet another failure. The premier and her government had the chance to appoint new, independent voices to the board of the Real Estate Council of B.C., the self-regulating agency that is supposed to oversee real estate brokers in this province.
This is a regulator that’s done little but slap unethical realtors on the wrist when they have been caught defrauding British Columbians, letting those realtors not only keep their licences, but keep the proceeds of their fraud.
But instead of sending a clear message that things need to change, the B.C. Liberals chose to say “job well done” to two of its three appointees, re-appointing them to multi-year terms.
Another opportunity missed, and more evidence that Christy Clark isn’t going to lift a finger to fix the housing crisis in our province. These appointees have sat through scandal after scandal, bad headline after bad headline. Christy Clark and her government needed to get fresh eyes on this problem, and they needed to send a message that change has to happen.
Instead, they chose to endorse two board members who were there when this council said it would get tough on Richmond-based New Coast Realty.
That’s the company that allegedly trained its realtors in how to create fake buyers’ bonuses, tricking sellers into undervaluing their home, then flipping it and pocketing the proceeds.
The council imposed some conditions on the firm. But it failed to suspend a single license.
That’s the kind of toothless self-regulation that the B.C. Liberals are endorsing through these reappointments.
In an overheated market, when real estate fraud can yield millions for unethical agents, strong regulation is critical. The B.C. Liberals clearly don’t see it that way. And that negligence isn’t just hurting British Columbians looking to buy and sell their homes, it’s hurting the reputations of hard-working, ethical realtors. But when given the opportunity to appoint new, independent experts that could work to restore some of that public confidence in both the regulator and the profession, the B.C. Liberals opted for inaction instead.
It’s just the latest failure from the B.C. Liberals, who have stood by while housing prices skyrocket, forcing families out of whole regions of our province, and putting the future of those regions in jeopardy.
New Democrats introduced a bill that would have taxed those who use B.C. houses as safety deposit boxes for offshore wealth. But the B.C. Liberals killed that bill, and offered no alternative of their own. What do the B.C. Liberals have to say to those who suggest they do more? Well, here’s what the deputy premier and housing minister had to say when a reporter asked him to respond to that criticism:
“I guess some people just have to get up and whine every day.… You just have to look at the glass as half-full, not half-empty…”
In other words: according to Christy Clark’s housing minister, everyone just needs to stop whining. Out of touch, arrogant, and just plain wrong. British Columbians need action, not insults, from their government.