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The federal government says it has agreed to provide $2-billion in low-cost loans to spur the construction of rental units in British Columbia, forging a deal that focuses on building on municipally owned land.

Ottawa expects that the federal loans to developers and other groups will help lead to the construction of more than 8,000 rental units, or double the amount originally envisaged under the B.C. government’s BC Builds program.

“Our investment, through the BC Builds program, will use public land to create more affordable housing, bring down the cost of construction and ensure that we build more homes, faster,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

“With the federal government’s partnership on BC Builds, we can create even more lower-cost, middle-income homes through the program,” B.C. Premier David Eby said.

Mr. Trudeau will make the formal announcement during a news conference on Tuesday with Mr. Eby and Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim.

Funding for Ottawa’s $2-billion contribution to BC Builds will come from the Apartment Construction Loan Program that the federal Liberal government beefed up three months ago.

Mr. Eby unveiled BC Builds on Feb. 13, announcing partnerships between the B.C. government and 20 groups so far, including those representing municipalities, First Nations and non-profit organizations.

The goal is to build affordable rental buildings on underused properties, including land owned by municipalities, with oversight of development in many cases by community organizations or non-profits. The BC NDP government has already earmarked $2-billion in provincial funding for low-cost loans for developers and other groups under BC Builds.

The provincial government believes that under a streamlined process, construction could be completed within an 18-month time frame instead of the traditional three to five years.

The province also plans to distribute $950-million in grants. The grants would help ensure that B.C. projects such as one to be built on land owned by the Town of Gibsons have at least one-fifth of the units in an apartment building charge monthly rent 20 per cent lower than the market rate.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and his federal counterpart, Sean Fraser, said it’s important to make rental units more affordable for the middle class.

“Teachers, nurses, construction workers and other middle-income people need more housing options in B.C.,” Mr. Kahlon said in a statement.

Critics say that the measures in BC Builds are disappointing and lacklustre, considering that the program has been in the works for nearly 16 months.

The Opposition BC United party and the BC Greens said the measures fall far short of what is required to address the housing crisis. They described BC Builds as a recycled version of a previous plan by the BC NDP government.

“Premier Eby appears to be out of touch with the lived reality of renters across the province,” the BC Greens said in a news release last week.

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