Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne joined Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in a response to B.C.’s throne speech.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne joined Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore in a response to B.C.’s throne speech.

Tofino, Smithers, Victoria and Port Coquitlam mayors respond to throne speech

“Our economies are suffering as hard-working people can’t find rental housing or affordable homes.”

A Home for Everyone

As mayors of BC communities, we listened to Tuesday’s throne speech with great hope for the future of British Columbians. “Home is at the heart of belonging – to a neighbourhood, a community, a province or country,” read the Lieutenant Governor. “Home is the place to hang our hat, to raise a family, to feel safe and secure.”

Communities across the Province are faced with insecurity and instability because there’s a mismatch between housing need and what’s available. Our economies are suffering as hard-working people can’t find rental housing or affordable homes to purchase. To address this, the Union of BC Municipalities recently released a housing strategy, “A Home for Everyone.” It makes clear recommendations for improvements across the housing continuum so all residents of British Columbia have access to the housing they need at every stage of their lives.

Despite the willingness of many local governments to step up with solutions, targeted investment in workforce housing by senior levels of government is critical to accelerate construction of affordable rental housing. Local governments like Tofino are primed to construct housing for workers and families on municipally-owned land. Yet even with no land cost, due to the high costs of construction, a significant ‘affordability gap’ still exists between what a tenant can afford to pay and what rents would have to be charged to repay construction loans.

Affordability is not the only challenge. A 2017 study by UNBC’s Community Development Institute found that northern communities face a mismatch between housing stock and household size. One and two-person households are becoming more common in the North, yet housing stock has not shifted to meet this trend. The most dramatic example of this is Kitimat, where the study found 68 percent of households have one or two people, but only 19 percent of the housing stock has one or two bedrooms. In addition, the study highlighted another issue: housing in the North is mostly over 35 years old, therefore more likely to be energy inefficient and in need of repair.

Meanwhile in Metro Vancouver and quickly spreading to Greater Victoria and beyond, home ownership is at a crisis level. The increase in housing prices has significant spillover effects into the limited rental market, creating an affordability emergency. Some people are renting longer than they wish because they cannot afford to buy, and others are buying beyond their means because they cannot tolerate insecure tenancies.

Data available demonstrate that foreign and domestic speculative demand is a major factor in the increase of BC housing prices. We are pleased to see the Throne Speech addressed the “results of speculation in all parts of our province – distorted markets, sky-high prices and empty homes” and that there’s a commitment in Budget 2018 to put forward new measures to address the effect of speculation on real estate prices. The main role of housing is to provide homes for our residents to live in, not to flip for profit; a Speculation Tax is critical to discourage property flipping.

Further, the proliferation of short-term rental businesses in residential dwellings is impacting the availability and cost of housing throughout BC. In tourism communities, this has had a profound effect on the ability for local workers to find accommodation. We applaud the Provincial Government’s recent announcement to start taxing short term rentals, though this does little to open up housing stock in our communities. Many communities are tackling short term vacation rental regulations using their land use authorities, but still need comprehensive taxation policies and regulatory tools across the province, looking to other jurisdictions for best practices.

If Tuesday’s throne speech is any indication, hope is on the horizon. But hope is not a strategy. To address the complexity of the housing crisis and the stress it’s causing our residents, we need a Provincial budget that is courageous, that enables creative risks and that pilots new approaches. As local government leaders committed to the health and well-being of our residents and the prosperity of our economies, we urge bold action and we are here to help.

Mayor Taylor Bachrach, Smithers

Mayor Lisa Helps, Victoria

Mayor Greg Moore, Port Coquitlam

Mayor Josie Osborne, Tofino

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Black Press Media file photo
Tofino sets municipal tax rates

Tofino’s residential property values are rising while businesses are declining.

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Amphitrite Point lighthouse on Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail during a massive winter storm. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan public hearing goes ahead despite push back

A petition calling on Ucluelet council to postpone the May 13 virtual event fails to deter

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Most Read