Skip to content

AND FRANKLY: Drastic changes are in store for B.C.’s housing market


Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is tackling a large number of housing-related issues (by order of his boss, Premier David Eby).

The North Delta MLA’s eagerness to show that the government is doing something about what is arguably its most challenging file may end up costing existing homeowners a lot of money. It will certainly change many neighbourhoods in Surrey, North Delta and White Rock beyond recognition.

The province is taking control over zoning of most specific properties. Public hearings will be eliminated, except when a project does not comply with the Official Community Plan. It is setting growth targets for municipalities.

It is mandating that up to six units could be built on a single-family lot anywhere in the province, in municipalities with 5,000 or more people. This could lead to much higher property assessments, and higher property taxes.

Under B.C.’s assessment rules, properties are assessed as to highest and best use. If detached homes are bought up by developers who want to build six units on those lots, neighbours would almost certainly see their assessments rise – and the jumps could be dramatic.

There is one small out, which the government has yet to mention. If homeowners have lived on their properties for at least 10 years, they can apply for a reduced assessment that would at least ease the jump in taxes. Of course, many homeowners would not be eligible.

The government is also bringing in amenity cost charges, which will add to the cost of housing. These new fees will fund services such as community centres and daycares. Current development cost charges already add tens of thousands to the cost of each new housing unit.

Another initiative will make municipalities develop plans for transit-oriented development by next June. This is very relevant in Surrey, due to the expansion of SkyTrain down Fraser Highway. The densities in these zones will be significantly higher than in almost any other area of Surrey – with the possible exception of Surrey City Centre. Parking requirements will go out the window.

It is important to look at the political motivations behind these very drastic changes to housing policy. They were first raised by Eby during the NDP leadership race that he ended up winning by acclamation last year. He wanted to show that the government would use all the tools in its toolbox to boost the number of housing units built each year.

In effect, his plans call for the province to take over many functions of local governments. Public consultation, already challenging, will become almost non-existent.

The NDP government is less than a year away from a provincial election. Its political opponents appear to be in disarray, and it does not appear likely that the NDP will lose the election. However, a year is a long time in politics.

Some of Eby’s proposals are modelled on similar overruling of local governments in California, under the guise of building more housing. There has been little appreciable increase in housing starts in many parts of that state due to the rule changes.

California housing prices continue to rise – even with higher interest rates. In B.C., that is exactly what has happened in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, much of Vancouver Island and Kelowna. Many other areas aren’t that much more affordable.

Higher property taxes, lack of consultation and additional charges on development will not solve any housing issues. They will simply create more problems.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for the Peace Arch News.