During the last BC election, concerns about housing affordability helped propel the then-governing BC Liberals out of office.
Since then, we’ve seen a range of concrete actions by all levels of government that successfully – but temporarily – slowed the rise and even slightly decreased housing costs in some cases. Now, housing costs have started climbing back to historic highs, bucking the pandemic.
BC’s political parties clearly need to up their game on housing, big time. So have they?
Here’s what we found in the three major parties’ election platforms.
1. Only the BC Greens commit to a clear and inclusive end goal
One of the reasons housing affordability is essentially as bad as ever is because the provincial government doesn’t even have a clear end goal when it comes to housing. Surprising, but true. It has sub-goals (e.g. build 114,000 homes), but no commitment on par with what Canada’s national housing agency (CMHC) has already adopted: that “by 2030, everyone living in Canada can afford a home that meets their needs,” as renters or owners. ← This is the right goal. Why would it be any less than that?
In response to calls from Gen Squeeze to adopt the CMHC goal, only the BC Greens have committed to it.1 The NDP platform only contains a vague headline to make housing “more” affordable and available (a pretty low bar), ditto the BC Liberal platform’s vague language about “increasing affordable housing for homebuyers and renters.2,3
Consider sending a message to all the party leaders asking them to commit to this goal, whomever forms government after the 24th.
2. None of the platforms stand a chance of achieving true affordability
If the goal is everyone being able to afford to rent or own a decent home, none of the platforms are up to the task. That means there’s going to be a lot of work to do no matter who forms government.
3. The BC Liberal platform promises supply-side solutions
Despite a claim that their platform represents the most comprehensive housing strategy of any jurisdiction in North America, the BC Liberals’ list of 24 housing actions (some vague, some specific) leans heavily towards supply-side solutions (i.e. only ½ of the basic supply and demand equation). Here, the platform is quite strong, including policies that would allow municipalities to profoundly reduce barriers to approving new housing (altogether emphasizing mostly market housing). On the demand side, their platform is weaker and limited to swapping out an existing policy (the speculation and vacancy tax) with a new condo pre-sale flipping tax and higher property taxes for non-residents of Canada; the net effect of the swap being weaker demand-side policy overall.
4. The BC NDP platform promises to tweak the status quo
The BC NDP platform leans mostly on action that has already been taken or announced as part of their 30-point housing plan. Many of those actions (e.g. aggressive demand-side actions like the speculation and vacancy tax, expanded foreign buyers tax and many others) were desperately-needed and helped cool the market a little bit for a little while. But things are getting worse again. Despite the renewed march skyward, the NDP’s housing platform only contains a handful of new measures, including a temporary rent freeze, direct support of up to $400 a year for some renters, and a promise to deal with escalating strata insurance costs. The rest of the platform mostly sticks to dialing up existing supply measures a little bit.
5. The rest of the BC Green platform reads similar to the NDP’s, but with some gap-filling
If you assume the BC Greens wouldn’t roll back anything the BC NDP have done so far on housing, then their platform reads a bit like the NDP’s with tweaks to the status quo (e.g. dialing up targeted support to non-market housing), combined with some new direct renter support (the amounts and details of which aren’t totally clear). The Green platform adds to these measures by doing a bit of gap-filling on the demand side (closing some identified loopholes) and by establishing a public fund to compete with private actors who have been buying up affordable rental housing and putting it at risk.
If you’d like to read our in-depth analysis of the housing platforms, check this out.
2 P. 20 the BC NDP platform
3 P. 20 of the BC Liberal platform