British Columbia's mayors want a dramatic overhaul of housing policy and are asking the provincial government to enact bold changes to create rental-only zones, tax real estate speculation, regulate provincewide short-term rentals and ensure buyers have more information about condo presales, among other measures.
The municipal politicians said Thursday the changes are urgently needed for their cities, as they join many others in putting pressure on the NDP government to tackle increasingly alarming housing problems.
"B.C.'s housing policies are no longer working. Foreign and domestic speculative demand is driving up prices," said Metro Vancouver chair Greg Moore, who outlined the Union of B.C. Municipalities' 32 recommendations on Thursday morning.
"And there's no simple solution. There is not one solution that will fit us all."
Mr. Moore said that statistics show there's been enough housing built in recent years to accommodate population growth. But, he said, most of it has served only selected groups.
"In recent years, we've seen a record number of homes built, yet we have seen an affordability crisis. We've built too much of the wrong kind of supply."
Although the UBCM recommendations call on the province to consider increasing or expanding the foreign-buyers tax, they also focus on domestic investors speculating in the real estate market.
UBCM president Wendy Booth, who is from the Kootenays, said her region has been hit by the "Alberta effect" – well-off Albertans buying vacation properties and contributing to housing problems for locals.
"It has an influence."
The NDP, which is governing with the support of the Green Party, has already been pressed by the Greens to take stronger action on housing, especially foreign investment.
In a news conference earlier this week, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver urged the government to ban all foreign purchasing of real estate, as well as introducing speculation and flipping taxes.
Like the municipal politicians, the Green Party recommended that British Columbia take provincewide action to regulate short-term rentals and enhance data collection and transparency when it comes to information about housing.
It also favoured rental-only zoning but specified that it should be near transit and it recommended that all B.C. cities get the right to create an empty-homes tax, not just Vancouver.
The report from the UBCM supported the NDP's plan to build 114,000 units of affordable rental, co-op, non-profit and supported housing over the next 10 years.
"We concur with that amount," Mr. Moore said. "But we need to ensure the right type of housing is built for each community."
Local-government politicians also support the idea of having the province give cities the legal ability to initiate a home-ownership program where the city retains some equity in a project, so that units could be sold to buyers at prices below the usual market rate.
The recommendations also urge the province to take action to reduce the pathways into homelessness and increase the efforts at transitioning out of it.
The NDP government has promised it will take strong action on housing issues in the February budget, although Premier John Horgan has also said recently that he is not in favour of banning foreign ownership.