IN THE LEDGE – Thousands worried about losing homes over strata hikes
Excerpts from Question Period in the Legislature today (Feb. 25, 2020):
T. Stone: British Columbians living in condos, townhouses and duplexes all over this province are facing a crisis today. Massive spikes in strata premiums, strata deductibles, strata insurance costs, which are then increasing monthly strata fees, are directly impacting people. But this government has failed to act with any sense of urgency.
Today I tabled a private member’s bill, amending the Strata Property Act, which would provide achievable and sensible legislative changes to help bring this growing crisis under control.
So my question to the Minister of Housing would be this. Will the Minister of Housing call this bill for debate?
Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for his interest in this issue.
As we’ve talked about — there is no question — we have concerns for strata owners, for people who own stratas and the worry that they’re having around insurance. This isn’t an issue, as I mentioned before, that’s unique to British Columbia. In fact, this is occurring across the country. We’ve been having discussions with our provincial counterparts, as well, about the challenges. There are a whole range of issues that are related to this, everything from climate change and the insurance industry itself.
The Minister of Housing and I are engaging with strata associations, with the insurance industry as well. We have also started discussions with the Financial Services Authority — FICOM, people may have known it as before — to look at all the ideas that are there.
The member just tabled the bill. I’m happy to take a look at it and see if there are ideas that we can incorporate into the discussion we’re having.
Mr. Speaker: Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: Well, the minister committing to ongoing discussions with all of the agencies that she just mentioned is cold comfort to the thousands of British Columbians who really truly feel that they’re at risk of losing their homes. This government has had months to consult with stakeholders to try and identify solutions, yet they have done absolutely nothing to this point. People who live in strata units, again all over this province, are in crisis mode. Some folks are watching their premiums skyrocket by as much as 400 percent in one year.
In addition to the contents of the bill that we introduced today, the official opposition is also calling on the government to create a strata water damage prevention program. This would be a program that would provide incentives for retrofits that would help mitigate the risk of extensive and costly water damage. This would both help to prevent that water damage from happening in the first place, but it would also have the effect of being taken into account by the insurance underwriters in bringing insurance costs down.
Again, my question to the Minister of Housing would be this. Will she commit to bringing in some sort of program similar to what we’re calling for here in this strata water damage prevention?
Hon. C. James: I wish the member was as committed to dealing with concerns about skyrocketing costs when he was with ICBC. Sadly, we know the pressures that drivers are facing because of the mess that was left us.
To come back to the strata insurance issue and the pressures that people are facing, that’s exactly why we’re having the conversations. There are a range of opinions around what should be done, differences of opinions with some strata owners, differences of opinions with the insurance industry itself. That’s why it’s important to work together to look at what’s going to work, and I’m happy to take a look at the member’s private member’s bill and see if there are some ideas that can be incorporated.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a second supplemental.
T. Stone: Again, British Columbians who live in strata units need action from the government now, not conversations and consultation. It’s time for this government to stand up and to act on behalf of the interests of the thousands of British Columbians who are in strata units.
In Kamloops, my community, one strata corporation has informed me that their premium has gone up by 335 percent year over year. Their deductible for water damage has gone from $5,000 to $250,000. What this means for the folks who live in this strata building is that there is going to be a one-time assessment of $1,000 per strata unit owner, and their monthly strata fees are going to go up $100 per month. That’s a $3,400 total cost over a three-year period that each strata unit owner is going to have to somehow try to come up with.
This strata corporation had this to say: “Through no fault of their own, the strata owners in our building must deal with a major increase in living expenses, way beyond that which reasonable people would have budgeted for. We presume thousands of other condominium dwellers in B.C. face similar additional financial burdens. This is totally unfair and clearly discriminatory.”
Again, we’ve presented some sensible actions in our bill this morning. We’re calling for a strata water prevention damage program. These are sensible, achievable actions that would make a real difference now.
When will the minister stand up and outline for British Columbians that are impacted by the rising strata insurance costs and tell them: what is your action plan to address this affordability crisis with stratas in British Columbia?
Hon. C. James: Unbelievable. Unbelievable, coming from the member that left over billions of dollars to ICBC –– problems for taxpayers here in British Columbia from that side of the House. For that member on that side to talk about financial burdens while we were left a mess with ICBC is incredible. Just incredible.
We are going to continue to stand up, to be able to address the issue, and to take the time to work with the industry and the strata associations to come up with a solution that works for everyone. That’s the commitment that we make. We don’t leave messes for other people. We fix up the messes that they left behind here in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, back to question period.
Source: B.C. Hansard.
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