B.C.’s new Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon, met with mayors of Langley City and Township, part of a tour through the Fraser Valley on Thursday, Jan. 5.
Kahlon said he’s speaking with mayors about how to get enough housing, the type of supply, and looking at all of that through the lens of residential affordability.
“We’re in the process of refreshing our housing strategy,” Kahlon said.
Meeting with the mayors was part of ensuring that his ministry is working with local governments, Kahlon said.
He noted that one of the reasons Langley is seeing so much development is the future SkyTrain line that will terminate here in 2028.
“We have a housing crisis, we have a population that’s living in tents,” Kahlon said. “We need to have creative solutions.”
That includes building housing faster, he said. He noted that when the NDP first took power in 2017, they increased affordable housing funding by six per cent.
But a lot of that housing is only now being finished. That’s too long to wait, Kahlon said.
He added that, although there is a lot of housing already being built in Langley and its neighbours, projects that cost $1.5 million a unit aren’t helping with affordability.
He said that the province is looking for more “gentle density.”
Some neighbourhoods will be able to accommodate 10-storey housing developments, but some won’t, he noted.
Gentle density often refers to changes like allowing moderate increases in already-developed areas, often through the addition of lane houses, secondary suites, duplexes and triplexes, and other projects that are at the same scale as existing single-family housing.
Langley MLA Andrew Mercier, who accompanied Kahlon to his meeting with Langley’s mayors, said that he believes most people locally welcome additional density and see it as a solution.
NIMBYism simply isn’t present in Langley City the way it is in some other communities, he said.
Both Langley City and Langley Township have plans for more development in the future, and Langley Township is also looking at reforming its development approval process. Langley City has one of the fastest approval processes for new housing in the region.
Asked about federal housing strategy, Kahlon said that Ottawa walked away from investing in affordable housing in the 1990s, which has led to many of today’s problems.
“The chickens are coming home to roost,” he said.
He’s been speaking to the federal minister of housing, and the federal government in general, about how Ottawa needs to work with the B.C. government on making sure there’e enough housing and health care services as population rises.
It’s time to start linking immigration to housing and health outcomes, Kahlon said.
“We know we need people, no doubt about it,” Kahlon said.
But the federal government has to support the infrastructure newcomers need, he said.
On Thursday, Kahlon met Langley City Mayor Nathan Pachal, Township Mayor Eric Woodward, as well as Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove and Abbotsford Mayor Ross Siemens, and leaders with the Fraser Valley Regional District.
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