MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard Spoke about Housing Affordability in the Legislature

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Today, MLA Leonard spoke about housing affordability in the Legislature. You can watch her speak here, or read the transcript below.

Thanks to the member for Kamloops–South Thompson for raising the matter of housing affordability. Achieving housing affordability is complex, as the equation is charged with a lot of variables and unknowns. It certainly is not simply about supply, as we all know very well that not all housing is equal. The math doesn’t add up. More housing does not always equal more affordable housing. History has proved that right here in British Columbia. Supply is important, but it is a question of the kind of supply that we nurture.

It would be wrong to put all of our eggs in one basket to solve our housing affordability crisis. That’s why our government has developed a 30-point housing plan and is working on other fronts to make life more affordable, to respond in multiple ways to the multitude of challenges that British Columbians face after 16 years of neglect by the former government — a government which left it to the open market to find its own equilibrium. This perspective did very well to serve the top 2 percent, but it has left the vast majority behind.

Let’s look at the last testament of the former government from the B.C. Liberal budget of 2017. They predicted only 27,500 housing starts in 2018. That’s a drop by more than a third, after a high of 41,000 actual housing starts in 2016. If supply is a critical measure, it is clear that with its hands-off approach, the old government had no real goal of increasing housing affordability. In the first year of rolling out our new government’s 30-point housing plan to address affordability, housing starts grew two-thirds more than the former government had predicted, and the vacancy rate had started to climb upwards.

In stark contrast, our new government is on track to see nearly 42½ thousand more housing starts over the next five years than the former B.C. Liberal government planned for. The opposition may wish to rely on the supply side of the equation to grow housing affordability, but in doing so, they fail the test. The numbers add up to show that today’s government is on a path to make life better for British Columbians.

Let’s have a look at another side of the housing affordability equation. I recall when the speculation and vacancy tax was being debated in this House, the member for Vancouver–False Creek warned of pressure from the tax that would drive housing prices up at the lower end, making condos and apartments less affordable. That has not materialized. In fact, house prices across the board are moderating.

Our government has asked homeowners to be a part of the solution. By proactively declaring their residency, they help reveal those properties that sit vacant. Imagine a community where fewer and fewer people have a roof over their heads, while more and more homes sit unoccupied, waiting for a good return on investment. Why wouldn’t a government work with the people to change the dial so that housing is for people first? As the minister who’s responsible for housing has said: “We’re not seeing investments in housing for people; we are seeing safety deposit boxes in the sky.”

Year 1 of our journey to invest $7 billion over ten years saw 17,000 units underway for mixed-income housing, supportive modular units, transition homes, student on-campus housing, Indigenous housing on and off reserve. Confidence remains strong as we continue into year 2 to build affordable housing, directly with supports where needed, and to undertake other measures to support more affordable housing, in B.C.’s housing market, in both existing and new housing.

It’s an ambitious plan, and the course is unfolding with success. The formula is proving itself. Successful partnerships are replacing the competition for scarce resources seen under the old government. There’s an atmosphere now of: “How can we jump on board and get some of that housing in our community?”

I also hear more and more constituents saying: “My kids are really struggling, even though they have good jobs.” That’s why the new housing hub is such a boon, as we look to develop new partnerships that are so necessary in the housing marketplace to grow more affordable housing for what’s been tagged as the “missing middle.”

With all hands on deck, we’re on a course to make life better, for British Columbians with an address, for every kind of housing need