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B.C. launches new agency to build middle-income rental housing quicker

Premier David Eby announced BC Builds Tuesday in North Vancouver
Premier David Eby Tuesday announced BC Builds in North Vancouver. BC Builds plans to build affordable rental housing for household incomes between $84,780 to $131,950 for a studio or one-bedroom home or $134,410 to $191,910 for a two-bedroom home or larger.

The province has unveiled a long-promised program that it says will create more rental housing for middle-income earners, focusing on speedy development on land owned by government, First Nations and non-profits.

Premier David Eby announced BC Builds in North Vancouver Tuesday (Feb 13), and was joined by Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and local mayor Linda Buchanan.

“The people who keep our province running need a decent place to live and they need an agency that it is dedicated to building that housing for them,” Eby said. He also used the occasion to announce the first three projects under BC Builds for a total of 400 units to be built in North Vancouver, Gibsons and Duncan on Cowichan Tribes land.

Under the umbrella agency BC Housing, BC Builds will work with non-profits, local governments, public agencies, First Nations and community groups to identify underused land. From there, funding and financing will support the construction of housing targeted to those who have a household income between roughly $84,000 and $190,000, subject to one-time income-testing.

Just under 670,000 households in B.C. earn between $80,000 and $149,999 based on the 2021 Census.

Currently, development projects take an estimated three to five years in B.C., but the province says these projects would be complete between 12 to 18 months.

Once living-ready, rents will reflect local market value and “many” will be below market rate. For projects in partnership with non-profits and First Nations, at least 20 per cent of units must rent at 20 per cent below market.

“Overall, this means more households will find below-market rent and spend less than 30 per cent of their income on rent,” the province said.

BC Builds will leverage $2 billion of already-available funding through BC Housing with the province pitching another $950 million announced Tuesday.

The program will use land owned by government, community-groups and non-profits. Some First Nations have identified land as well. Such spaces may include government-owned land next to public facilities, such as parking lots near community centres and open areas near hospitals and long-term care homes.

But BC Builds could also see the creation of rental homes on top of daycares, neighbourhood houses, foodbanks, firehalls and city halls, the province said. The program also bills itself as a way to revitalize the downtowns of smaller communities by building housing on their respective main streets.

The province says that BC Builds has its eye on 20 initial sites that could add up to 4,000 new housing units by no later than 2026, with some projects breaking ground as early as this summer.

That figure is modest compared to the 17,000 residential units created across B.C. in December 2023.

Eby said BC Builds is designed to grow with thousands of more units slated for the future. “But the nature of (BC Builds) makes it difficult to give a precise number aside from the fact that we’ve got right now 4,000 in the queue and more to come,” he said.

Eby said BC Builds is just one piece in government’s much broader response, pointing to his government’s efforts to rein in short-term rentals and build up density in residential neighbourhoods as well as public transit hubs. “We are talking literally hundreds of thousands of units of housing through all of these different initiatives that we have brought forward,” he said, adding that more units are in the queue. “That will results in thousands and thousands units going forward. It’s a very exciting day and it’s not the full answer, but it is a significant piece of the puzzle.”

BC Builds joins a long list of programs offered through BC Housing.

Some 29,000 families in British Columbia live in subsidized housing offered through BC Housing, the agency has said. That includes about 8,300 low-income working families in B.C. receiving support through the rental assistance program. Another 56,000 senior households also receive some form of assistance through BC Housing.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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