MILOBAR – We need better than one-size-fits-all strategy on housing
By PETER MILOBAR
MLA, Kamloops-North Thompson
WORDS CANNOT put a roof over someone’s head. They cannot build a home for someone in need. And while I appreciate that the current NDP government is acknowledging B.C.’s serious housing crisis, all their words of sympathy have categorically failed to deliver results for British Columbians.
For six years, the NDP has been promising to build the housing people in B.C. desperately need. They committed to constructing 114,000 new units, promised to address the housing crisis and deliver affordability. But as they have learned, and British Columbians have witnessed, saying the right words is one thing, translating those words into action is a completely different story.
We have spent years watching home and rent prices skyrocket and people, particularly young people and families, pushed out of their communities because they cannot afford the cost of housing.
Concerned about their dismal track record on housing, the NDP government, led by Premier David Eby, recently put forward a new housing strategy. However, rather than a bold new vision to tackle the crisis head-on, the plan abandons the NDP’s old promises and fudges the numbers, failing to admit their lack of progress.
The so-called housing ‘refresh’ contains mostly previously announced or delayed commitments and carefully crafted messaging to hide government’s glacial progress.
In their count of new homes their government has supposedly built, the NDP has included student housing, units under construction, units built in the 1980s that government presumes have come back on the market as a result of the speculation and vacancy tax, homes funded by the federal government, temporary modular housing, and housing that has simply been promised.
To call these figures misleading is an understatement and certainly not what people had in mind when government promised to ‘build’ homes. The reality is that fully five years into what was supposed to be a 10-year plan, this government has built and opened just 15,783 homes — a disappointing 13.8 per cent of their 114,000-unit promise.
It’s hard to figure out whether it is a lack of urgency holding this government back from fulfilling their promises, or just that they are not capable of doing the hard work required to get more housing built in our province.
We know that BC Housing is currently in chaos. It’s the subject of a forensic audit, and is an organization that has suffered from repeated mismanagement and the departure of more than 100 staff members and executives in the last two years.
It feels like, under this government’s leadership, BC Housing continually struggles to make the right decisions that are in the best interest of British Columbians. In fact, just last week, BC Housing spent $12.8 million in taxpayer dollars to buy a building in Kamloops that has an assessed value of $4.2 million.
How can this government expect to get hundreds of thousands of housing units built if they can’t even keep BC Housing running effectively?
At the end of the day, it’s clear that whatever the NDP has been doing to try to improve affordability, it simply isn’t working. To truly address this critical issue, government needs to provide more than vague plans and ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches.
We need a government that is ready and willing to work with communities, the private sector and other organizations to efficiently build the housing B.C. needs, where it is needed most. The time for words is long over — British Columbians expect and deserve real results.
Peter Milobar was elected MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson in May 2017, and re-elected in October 2020. He is the Official Opposition Critic for Finance. He previously served as critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Official Opposition House Leader.
Could you please add to your column the plans that you and your party members have shared with members of the NDP government that would assist in helping the BC housing issues. Working together to solve the problems seems to be a foreign concept in our governments. Criticizing from the sidelines does not get problems solved. Please help.
PS. I do also note that while people throw their arms up and criticize governments for the housing issue they then happily sell their houses for the inflated cost. And sadly people who need to buy homes pay the price.