BURNABY, B.C. - A new tax on foreign buyers and a windfall budget surplus are funding more rental housing in B.C., says Premier Christy Clark.
The province announced Monday that $500 million will be used to create 2,900 rental units in a partnership with non-profit groups, local governments, community agencies and the private sector.
"Now is the time, as home ownership gets more and more expensive, as the dream of even renting a home finds its way out of the reach of so many people, this is the time to make these investments so that we can support putting British Columbians first when it comes to housing," she said.
Earlier this year, the government implemented a 15 per cent tax on properties purchased by foreign buyers and that money will go towards the new rental stock, Clark said. The rest will come from the province's larger-than-anticipated budget revenues.
"We've got a large surplus this year so we're able to afford to do this," she said.
Last week, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced that an extra billion dollars in real estate taxes and $1.3 billion in higher income taxes helped to boost revenue, allowing some of that money to be used for housing.
The government said the cash infusion is the largest single housing investment in a single year by any province in Canada.
The money will fund a mix of housing for low-to moderate-income earners, seniors, students, adults with developmental disabilities, aboriginals and single parents.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman said the projects will be approved by the end of March 2017.
The announcement is a significant step towards helping more people find an affordable place to live, Clark said.
"You can't live the kind of life that you hope for in this country and you can't raise your children in a way that you've always dreamed of if you don't have a decent roof over your head. And our government is really committed to making that happen."
But other levels of government need to take steps to address the provincial housing crunch, too, she said, adding that the federal government needs to make land available for affordable housing and create incentives for rental developers.
Clark also said the federal government needs to do a better job of policing money laundering in the real estate sector, and her government is happy to share any information they legally can in order to make that happen.
Municipalities have the biggest job when it comes creating more rental housing, because they control zoning, she added.
"The province is really stepping up. We're trying to do our part. We're hoping the federal government does the same. But local mayors and councils have to be part of the solution because we can't do the zoning for them," Clark said.