The West Coast’s MLA hopefuls threw some affordable housing solutions around while pitching their political parties’ platforms to Tofino’s voters last week.
B.C. has a provincial election coming up on May 9 and four of the candidates for the West Coast’s Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding participated in a forum hosted by the Tofino Chamber of Commerce on April 19.
Among the topics discussed was one of the top issues troubling local minds as an ongoing housing crunch is making it difficult for locals to find affordable accommodation.
BC Liberal candidate Darren DeLuca said his party will focus on increasing the housing supply.
“The key to improving housing affordability over the long term is by creating new supply,” he said.
“We need to support municipalities to speed up permitting, reduce red-tape and in Tofino’s case, provide access to crown land, if community growth is being limited.”
He said the BC Liberals implemented several measures to address affordability, including a first time home buyers program that saves first-time home buyers $8,000 in property purchase tax and the BC Home Partnership which provides up to $37,500 towards the purchase of a first home.
“We expanded the home renovation tax credit eligibility to people renovating their home to accommodate a secondary suite,” he added. “So, not only do you have secondary income, but you’re creating additional housing.”
He added Resort Municipality Initiative funding could also be explored to help with Tofino’s seasonal staff housing.
“One of the things I’d be willing to look at to address worker affordability is expanding the scope of the Resort Community Initiative to include labour market training and housing eligibility including a rent subsidy,” he said.
The NDP’s Scott Fraser, the riding’s incumbent MLA, said his party has been “raising the red flag on the affordable housing crisis” for many years.
“Meanwhile, we were jeered and laughed at by the Premier and the government said there is nothing here,” he said. “We have a big problem now, so we have to catch up.”
He said the NDP has committed to building 114,000 affordable housing units and would also launch a $400 renters rebate.
“Homeowners get a homeowners grant and renters don’t get anything,” he said. “Renters are usually in a lower income bracket than homeowners so there will be a $400 cheque going to help make life a little bit easier for those people.”
He added foreign investors could help fund affordable housing.
“We need to increase the rental supply and we need to stop the speculation that is driving prices up. So, we’re implementing a 2 per cent tax on foreign owners that buy houses for speculation and leave them vacant,” he said. “Every dime of that will go back into the affordable housing program to continue that cycle of building affordable houses as we need it throughout the province.”
The Green Party’s Alicia LaRue said affordable housing is an issue throughout the province and her party would commit $750 million to construct roughly 4,000 new buildings annually.
“I would really want to focus on those new units being something that is obviously environmentally friendly. Something that, possibly, has a farming co-op. Something that can actually allow people with low income to live there, but also save money by not having a huge amount of bills with their electricity and whatnot,” she said.
She added Tofino’s most obvious housing concern is the seasonal influx that arrives each summer and said creative solutions should be explored.
“I’m about talking about ideas, instead of talking about problems, let’s talk about solutions,” she said. “Possibly figuring out some kind of yurt system of sorts, where we can get the yurts up during one part of the season and another part of the season we can take them down.”
She added the Green Party is planning a larger tax on foreign investment than the NDP.
“What the BC Green Party would be doing is putting 30 per cent onto foreign investors,” she said.
BC Refederation party candidate Dan Cebuliak said his party would seek out housing solutions by promoting collaboration between communities and government.
“It would be the communities that would come up with the design and the plan for what they want for affordable housing,” he said. “When you start looking at what’s been happening, in the last ten years specifically, housing has gotten way out of hand, price-wise, for people and it’s now time for us to roll up our shirt sleeves and start tackling this problem head on. We will always hear how governments will use our money to tackle a problem, but they don’t really solve it.”
He said local residents know best when it comes to their communities’ needs.
“The BC Refederation Party is a problem solver and by working closely with the communities we’ll be able to determine the needs much better,” he said. “The ultimate thing is what the people of this area want and how we can go about to achieve it with the best results, environmentally and economically, and that will benefit this area for a long time to come.”