Finding affordable housing has become increasingly difficulty in B.C.

Finding affordable housing has become increasingly difficulty in B.C.

WHERE THEY STAND: Abbotsford candidates on making housing more affordable

The issue:

The Abbotsford-Mission area has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country and house prices have soared over the past several years, as have the number of homeless men and women.

The parties’ platforms:

The NDP says it would build “114,000 new rental social and co-op, and owner-purchase housing units” over 10 years through “partnerships.” They also pledge to provide a yearly rebate of $400 for each renter household, to match homeowners’ breaks on their property taxes.

The BC Liberals say they would increase housing supply by encouraging municipalities to speed up permitting, raising the threshold for the First Time Home Buyers’ Program exemption to $500,000 and investing $700 million in a previously announced program to provide mortgage down payment assistance loans.

The Greens say they’ll make the property transfer tax more progressive and implement a second transfer tax for property-flippers. They also say they’ll spend money to build affordable housing, and push for a rethink of zoning rules in communities.

We asked the local candidates:

Andrew Christie, NDP, Abbotsford-Mission

• Is there a way you can encourage the private sector to build more housing?

“I think we really need to focus on the public sector … what you need to do is invest in co-op housing, in low-cost housing, in affordable housing for British Columbians.”

Kevin Eastwood, Green Party, Abbotsford West

• Will a tax on house flippers significantly increase the supply of housing?

“It will change the way houses are being occupied. In Vancouver and across B.C., there are many houses which may be vacant that are being held just for speculation as investments, and, by changing the tax structure, it might encourage people to ensure those spaces are filled and being rented out or occupied by families.”

Lynn Simcox, Christian Heritage Party, Abbotsford West

• What needs to be done to increase the supply of new housing?

“We need to get that entrepreneurial spirit back, the sense of volunteerism, the ability to not make profit. Land is very expensive now. We have to find ways to build up, and we have to find a way to make things more reasonable. Building codes are much more stringent now and this adds to the cost of housing.”

Simon Gibson, BC Liberals, Abbotsford-Mission

• Are house prices too high?

“Too high is kind of a relative thing, because government can only do so much … We passed legislation last summer on three dimensions to deal with the cost of housing and the 15 per cent property transfer tax for non-Canadians was part of that, plus we regulated how the real estate industry.”

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