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B.C. to spend billions on plan to build more homes to ease housing crisis

Homes for People plan starts with $4B investment over three years
Premier David Eby shakes hands with Housing Minister and government house leader Ravi Kahlon during a swearing-in ceremony at Government House in Victoria, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. The British Columbia government has introduced a multibillion-dollar plan to construct more homes sooner in an attempt to build its way out of the housing crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The British Columbia government has introduced a multibillion-dollar plan to construct more homes as quickly as possible in an attempt to build its way out of the housing crisis. 

The so-called Homes for People plan starts with a $4-billion investment over three years and commits to $12 billion over a decade with incentives to build, laws to curb speculation and financial help for renters and homeowners. 

"This crisis is touching people in every corner of our province. It's impacting quality of life in our communities and it's holding back our entire economy," Premier David Eby said.

"Businesses are struggling to attract workers who can't afford to live in the communities where the jobs are."

As part of the plan, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the government will introduce provincial legislation this fall to allow three to four units on a traditional single-family detached lot with additional density permitted in areas well served by transit.

"This means no more long zoning processes just to build a duplex, a triplex or a row home. Without more of these types of homes, we risk pushing more of our next generation out of this province," he said.

Additional legislation will be introduced this year to allow secondary suites in every community across the province.

Next year, homeowners will be able to access a forgivable loan of 50 per cent of the cost of renovations, up to a maximum of $40,000 over five years, if they are willing to rent those secondary suites at below market rate for at least five years.

The pilot program is expected to be open to at least 3,000 homeowners for the first three years.

Eby is also promising a flipping tax to discourage speculation.

"We'll be designing this tax to ensure that it achieves the goal, which is getting away from people buying a home to hold it for a short period of time and sell it for a higher price driving costs higher," he said.

"If you are holding a home right now that you intend to flip, if you are thinking about buying a home for the purposes of flipping it, the message today is that this tax is coming, it will cost you money. 

"So stop engaging in that activity. Homes are for British Columbians to live in this province."

The government is also promising to beef up enforcement of short-term rentals, and streamline and modernize the permit process to cut costs and speed up approvals. 

Reducing homelessness is a key part of the plan, with a proposal to add 3,900 new supportive housing units and 240 complex care spaces.

It will also include teams designed to quickly respond to encampments and support those who are living outdoors. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2023. 

The Canadian Press