Monday, February 5, 2024

Housing Update from Minister Ravi Kahlon at Metro Vancouver Council of Councils

On Saturday, Mayors and Councillors of Metro Vancouver municipalities attended the semiannual Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting. This meeting allows all local elected representatives to learn about significant regional initiatives at the Metro Vancouver Regional District, ask questions, and provide feedback.

In the fall, the provincial government introduced a suite of legislation around land use, likely the most significant change in BC land-use law in the last 75 years. This was a very special Council of Councils, as it was dedicated to one topic: the provincial changes to land use.

I've talked about these changes in a previous post, but at a high level, the province now, by right, allows people to build up to four units of housing on every lot in urban areas, going up to six units along frequent transit lines. Near SkyTrain Stations and major transit exchanges, the province allows people to build, by right, at a minimum between 8 and 20 stories, depending on the distance. The final change was updates to some funding tools local governments use to still allow the collection of fees to pay for infrastructure even with the new "by right" densities.

At the Council of Councils, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon noted that the province would introduce new legislation to allow local governments to require a certain percentage of affordable housing or housing for people with disabilities in new residential housing projects. He also hinted at legislation for Tenant Relocation Policies. In a previous post, you can learn more about how these changes fit into the Langley City context. In the past, municipalities would negotiate inclusionary zoning and tenant relocation policies as part of the rezoning process. In many cases, this negotiation is no longer possible because of the new "by right" densities. It is good to see that the province plans to plug this gap with new legislation.

If there was one phrase that was used over and over again at the Council of Councils, it was "unintended consequences." Metro Vancouver Regional District staff presented some of their concerns about the provincial housing changes and proposed solutions. The biggest concern is that there are not enough planners and consultants to update local government policies and bylaws within the provincial government's timeline. The Regional District is looking at how it can support member municipalities to meet the aggressive provincial timelines.

A slide from Saturday's Council of Councils meeting shows current single-family areas and the likelihood of densification due to province legislation. Select the image to enlarge.

There is one big concern in my mind: infrastructure. We cannot have increased density without improved transit service. Currently, TransLink is on the path to bankruptcy. Mayors will need to significantly increase TransLink property tax to prevent this bankruptcy and expand transit; the province must also come to the table with new stable operating funding for TransLink. If they don't, transit service will not meet demand and congestion on our roads will skyrocket.

The federal government must also come to the table with water and sewer infrastructure funding. With our population growth driven by federal policy, they must also help pay for the infrastructure required to support this growth.

It was an informative Council of Councils meeting, and I look forward to the next meeting in the fall.

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