In B.C. politics, there are only two speeds: glacial, and pedal-to-the-metal.
In housing and development reform, it’s been years of the glacial speed, first under the BC Liberals and then for a term-and-three-quarters under the NDP. But now, everything is happening at once.
An incomplete list of the changes introduced in the last two weeks by Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon includes:
• Triplexes to six-plexes to be allowed on most single family lots, depending on size and availability of transit,
• A crackdown on Airbnb and VRBO, including a near-ban on non-residential short-term rentals,
• Changes to how towns zone and plan for future development,
• Changes to development cost charges and amenity contributions cities collect from developers, and
• Increased density around transit hubs.
It’s an enormous amount of change, much of it without precedent in Canada.
For years, the public has been told that the spiralling cost of housing was a result of a lack of supply, compounded by slow approvals at various city halls. Well, these reforms appear to be a real attempt to clear out those blockages. Developers can now build more homes, faster, in more places, and in configurations – like the fourplexes – that are almost entirely unheard of before in B.C.
If these work, the ball will be in the court of municipal governments, developers, and landowners.
Is there an appetite for new forms of “missing middle” housing in existing neighbourhoods? Will people flock to transit-adjacent condos that have fewer parking spots? If there is a flood of construction, will anyone be able to afford the new rental units or homes, or are we just building more multi-million-dollar boxes for speculators?
Whatever happens, at least Victoria finally stepped on the gas on housing reform.