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CHBA BC welcomes new ministry focused on housing

Russell Hixson
CHBA BC welcomes new ministry focused on housing

B.C. Premier John Horgan and the new provincial cabinet were sworn in this month in Victoria. Among them was Selina Robinson, the representative for Coquitlam-Maillardville, and the new minister of municipal affairs and housing.

The NDP has split housing away from the Ministry of Natural Gas, creating the new housing ministry.

"It’s a positive sign to see housing as a dedicated ministry portfolio," said Neil Moody, CEO of the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association of British Columbia (CHBA BC).

"It demonstrates that housing is not just an important issue for this government, but also on the same level as other sectors that contribute to the economy like natural resource operations or forestry."

Residential construction is one of the largest employers in the province with over 150,000 jobs, and is a large contributor to B.C.’s economic growth.

Moody said the association had recommended the creation of a ministry of housing previously so he is pleased to see it come to fruition.

He added it is "interesting" to see municipal affairs combined with housing, but it is a logical combination.

"It fits within the platform announcements to build a significant amount of housing units," he said. "The provincial government can provide the land, but the municipalities take care of zoning, inspections and the building process. It demonstrates that housing isn’t just a provincial issue, it involves co-operation with municipal governments for mutual success."

However, Moody feels the government’s promise to build over 100,000 units is not realistic given the demand and shortage of skilled trades at current construction levels.

Moody explained that working with the new transportation minister on transit funding is a key issue. CHBA BC would also like to see some collaboration with the municipalities on how the region can have projects approved faster and address the red tape and delays.

"With over 110,000 permits tied up in the regulatory process, this impacts supply for buyers and adds to costs of housing in B.C.," Moody said.

New building code changes for energy-efficiency will also come in effect later this year. CHBA BC wants to see some new incentives for energy-efficient retrofits so that the region can address existing housing and not just focus on new housing where homes already are more energy-efficient.

"The real opportunity to make significant gains in the housing stock is through retrofits, with incentives like a renovation tax credit," Moody said. "We already have a renovation tax credit for aging in place and accessibility. Adding energy-efficiency to that tax credit is a logical next step, especially with this government’s focus on sustainability and the environment."

Due to the province’s shifting political leadership, many issues were put on hold, with many stakeholders waiting to see who would be able to form a stable government.

"CHBA BC had provided recommendations to the parties before the election, and now we have the opportunity to connect with this new ministry and minister Robinson as an important stakeholder," Moody said.

"We will want to emphasize that home builders are creating jobs in every community across the province, and are important to B.C.’s economic growth. Builders will need to be able to keep adding supply, especially in areas where there is a significant demand."

Moody added that as an industry the most important thing is to work collaboratively with this government, providing recommendations and open feedback on any new policy proposals.

"The policy ideas will come from the government, but industry members will be the ones to deliver on these proposals. We need to be at the table early in the process to provide advice from our perspective," he said.

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