B.C. ELECTION 2017: Where each party stands on the issue of affordable housing

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THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - If you bought or rented a home in the past year, there’s a good chance you have an opinion about the state of affordable housing in the Thompson-Okanagan and you might wonder where each party in the B.C. election stands on the issue.

With rental vacancy rates at less than one per cent in some parts of the Okanagan, many are struggling to find housing, let alone afford it.

The housing squeeze has left area shelters filled to capacity and more people sleeping outside. In the past year, we’ve heard stories of young couples camping in yards, people over-wintering in travel trailers, and people having to choose between keeping their pets, and getting a roof over their heads.

The Liberal government has made some local investments in recent years, including converting former motels in Vernon and Kamloops into affordable housing. A good start, but social agencies insist it is not nearly enough to meet the soaring demand.

In its party platform, the Liberals vow to “help you realize the dream of home ownership.”

A significant chunk of the party’s section on homes for British Columbians focusses on addressing housing affordability in Metro Vancouver specifically, but it also includes a number of initiatives for the province as a whole. Those include: expanding the Home Renovation Tax Credit to those renovating their home for a secondary suite, raising the threshold of the First Time Home Buyers’ Program exemption, investing in the B.C. HOME Partnership program to provide mortgage down payment assistance loans, helping low-income families and senior households with their rent, and working with municipalities to speed up permitting and open new opportunities for housing.

The B.C. Liberal Party says it has already made the largest ever one year investment to create 5,300 affordable housing units, assisted more than 10,000 families a year through the Rental Assistance Program, and supported almost 20,000 households a year through the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters program. Read the party’s full plan for housing here, starting on page 73.

The B.C. NDP’s approach to housing makes note that while the cost of housing has skyrocketed, wages haven’t kept up.

In their party platform, the NDP attack Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals for siding with ‘unscrupulous landlords’, neglecting rules to protect tenants, and accepting more than $10 million from developers.

So, what would the NDP do about it? Their strategy includes a pledge to build 114,000 new rental, social, co-op and owner-purchase housing units; make sure renters are treated fairly; and crack down on the ‘cheaters who are distorting B.C.’s housing market. Specifically, the NDP vow to use public land to build affordable housing, create new student housing by removing rules preventing universities and colleges from building affordable student housing, and will ensure controls on rent increases are enforced. The NDP would provide a refundable renter’s rebate of $400 per year, provide more resources to the Residential Tenancy Branch and give local governments the ‘tools they are asking for to zone areas for rental housing.’ Read more about the NDP’s strategy on housing here.

The B.C. Green Party’s platform states that it would act to cool the sky-high prices of the real estate market, which would have ripple effects on affordable housing, but would not in and of itself solve the problem of homelessness. The party makes reference to the B.C. Home Owner and Equity Partnership introduced by the Liberals, calling ‘programs that facilitate property purchase by those who are only marginally capable of servicing a mortgage, to be ill-considered and potentially financially ruinous to families.’ The Greens promise to address the impact of absentee ownership and speculative investment in the real estate market; increase the supply of affordable accommodation; create effective protections for tenants and landlords, and provide ongoing support for those experiencing income insecurity. Specifically, the party pledges to invest in approximately 4000 new units of affordable housing per year; control rent increases, make changes to the Property Transfer Tax. Read more about the Green Party’s stance on housing here, starting on page 21.

Read more about election issues, local candidates and voting information here.

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