VICTORIA – The Province of British Columbia’s 2018 budget takes aim at the Lower Mainland’s red-hot housing market.
Key to the B.C. government’s goal to bring more affordable housing to Metro Vancouver and beyond is a tax on property speculators, along with an increase in the recently introduced foreign buyers tax from 15 to 20 per cent. The foreign buyers tax will also expand outside of the Metro Vancouver area to the Okanagan, Fraser Valley, Nanaimo and Capital District.
The government will also move to stop tax-evasion in pre-sale condo reassignments and take action to end “hidden ownership,” the Homes For BC 30-point housing affordability plan stated.
“Our province needs bold action, and Budget 2018 delivers by investing in choices that make life more affordable, improve the services we all count on and provide supportive housing for at-risk British Columbians,” said Finance Minister Carole James.
The B.C. government also pledged a $6.6-billion investment in affordable housing, which they claimed will deliver 114,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years, including 14,000 rental units and an investment of $550 million in construction of 1,750 units of social housing for Indigenous people in British Columbia. The government will also invest in the Indigenous Skills Training Program and aboriginal friendship centres.
Approximately $308 million will be spent for critical maintenance and energy performance upgrades on existing social housing, the budget stated. A new Housing Hub office at BC Housing will engage governments, non-profits and the private sector to create housing solutions. Additionally, the municipal and district tax will be allowed for use with affordable housing initiatives.
“Budgets are not only about the bottom line, they should be about people. That’s why British Columbians are at the centre of every choice we have made in Budget 2018. These include historic investments in child care and affordable housing that will be felt for generations,” James said.
Over $1 billion will be invested towards a universal child care plan which James claimed will create more than 22,000 child care spaces across the province. The spaces, she said, will meet rigorous quality and safety standards.
The budget also allocates $450 million to a new program that allows post-secondary institutions to borrow from the government to finance student housing, a practice that was not previously allowed in B.C.
Medical Service Plan premiums will also be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2020, with a new payroll tax for employers starting Jan. 1, 2019.
Businesses with a $1.5 million or more payroll will pay a tax of 1.95 per cent, while those with a payroll between $500,000 and $1.5 million will pay a reduced rate and those under $500,000 won’t pay at all.
The province stated it will spend $40 million to improve land use certainty for economic development, create an “energy roadmap to support the transition to a low carbon future,” and fund wildlife management to improve protection and recovery.
The government will also put aside $72 million to wildfire recovery and resiliency activities.
The Journal of Commerce will have construction industry reaction to the provincial budget in an upcoming edition.