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Eby says he’ll play hardball on housing file

Proposed legislation would penalize quick flippers, force cities to approve housing and launch a $500 million fund to buy multi-family rental projects that come up for sale
BC NDP leadership candidate David Eby announces his plans for housing affordability in North Vancouver, Sept. 28, 2022.| Brent Richter / North Shore News

David Eby, apparent frontrunner in the race to become leader of the NDP BC and B.C.’s next premier, will apparently play hardball on the housing front if elected, according to its first major campaign announcement on September 28.

Eby outlined the policies in front of a rental housing project in North Vancouver.

If he becomes premier, Eby said he will bring in sweeping legislation that would penalize short-term flippers of residential real estate, force B.C. municipalities to approve new housing developments, and allow secondary suites in every B.C. region.

Under Eby's plan, strata councils would also no longer be able to prohibit owners in their buildings from renting their condos out and make it illegal to have under age 19 restrictions in strata buildings.

Under the proposed flipping tax the tax rate is not disclosed, but it would be highest for those who hold properties for the shortest period and be phased out after two years of ownership.

Home flipping has virtually disappeared in B.C. however. Home prices in B.C.’s Lower Mainland have been falling month-over-month since March and, according to the BC Real Estate Association, average home prices in B.C. are forecast to decline a further 3.1 per cent in 2023.

Eby also plans to allow homebuilders to replace a single-family house with up to three units of housing on the same footprint, right across the province. Eby said the province would also make more public land accessible for “affordable” housing.

A B.C. Builds policy will also include more capital grants for non-profits that build housing for First Nations, on and off reserve, and for people experiencing homelessness, as well as more money for treatment and supports.

Perhaps the most controversial item of the policy platform is a Rental Housing Acquisition Fund, backed with $500 million in provincial money, that would give First Nations, non-profits and co-op housing groups the first right of refusal on the purchase of at-risk affordable rental buildings that come up for sale. This, the policy states, is to protect renters from “speculators.”

Eby is the former B.C. Minister of Housing, under whose watch the province experienced the country’s worst housing crisis, with the highest rents and housing prices and the lowest rental vacancy rates in Canada, as well as record-high homelessness.

There is no guarantee that Eby will win the December 3, 2022, leadership vote, though there is only one other contender for the title.