Green Party Response

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Valentine Wu              Rick McGowan

Burnaby Edmonds     Burnaby Deer Lake

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Peter Hallschmid    Joe Keithley

Burnaby North        Burnaby Lougheed

1. What is your party’s position on addressing homelessness in British Columbia?

Green MLA Andrew Weaver has stated and we agree, “We cannot solely rely on the work of non-profit organizations and charitable groups to resolve these issues — they need government leadership and help from all of us. And all levels of government must step up and provide the resources and support so desperately needed.”

Many argue that it is time for BC to adopt a comprehensive poverty reduction plan — one that would significantly reduce poverty and homelessness through legislated targets and timelines. The BC Greens are committed to reducing homelessness in BC and would take strong action, based on available research and best practices, and in partnership with agencies on the front lines of this issue, to achieve this goal. Further details of our policies will be released in our platform in the coming weeks. We believe that basic income could form an integral part of ending homelessness, but we also recognize the importance of supportive housing and mental health and addictions services.

2. Does your party plan to establish a provincial housing strategy to address the growing affordable housing crisis in British Columbia? Please provide an explanation and key actions that your party would take.

The BC Greens support exploring a housing-first strategy, emphasizing provision of adequate affordable and subsidized housing. All action we would take would be informed by the research and expertise across BC, Canada, and internationally that shows the potential cost savings of directly addressing homelessness through a housing-first approach.

3. What is your party’s plan to establish a poverty reduction program in BC?

BC Greens’ Leader Andrew Weaver has suggested piloting basic income as a solution to the problems in our current social assistance system, payable to all British Columbians who fall below a certain income threshold. Our current social assistance system is invasive and complex, lets too many people slip through the cracks in the system, provides inadequate financial help, and stigmatizes those collecting welfare. To be effective, basic income would be at a level higher than our current welfare rates, which would not require recipients to jump through hoops in order to receive financial support. Further details of this plan will be released in our platform in the coming weeks.

4. If elected, what resources would your party allocate to increase the supply of affordable and core need housing stock in British Columbia, the Lower Mainland and specifically to Burnaby?

Recent announcements by the provincial government are encouraging, but they need to be reviewed closely in response to recent news regarding BC Housing`s financing practices. According to the government, there are new investment commitments of $920 million to support the acquisition, construction and renovation of almost 5,300 housing units throughout B.C. over the next few years. This is an important first step, but it is not enough. One estimate suggests we need to build 10,000 units a year to meet the needs of British Columbians. As Green MLAs, we will hold all partners accountable to their promises and advocate for further investment in social housing. Personally, We want to ensure that residents in our community are not displaced or thrown into housing insecurity due to a strictly market based approach.

5. If elected, what resources would your party allocate to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing from conversions, demolitions or serious deterioration?

Much of the loss of affordable housing in Burnaby is due to rezoning of low rise multi-family rentals in favor of high rises. Re-Zoning is the responsibility of the Municipality under the authority of provincial acts. We agree that City of Burnaby should adopt a moratorium on rezoning of multifamily low rises before it could reach an agreement with the current renters already there. We feel the City may be following the letter of the law, but not the intent or spirit. As MLAs, we would continue to raise these concerns, educate the community and explore possibilities to reduce the rate of displacement currently under way. Standards of maintenance, rate of change and one-for one replacement bylaws need to be encouraged in Burnaby We also need to review the Residential Tenancy Act. Additionally, the RTB needs to sufficiently funded to address tenant and landlord concerns in a timely manner.

6. If elected, what resources would your party commit to the prevention of homelessness amongst those at risk such as low income earners, youth exiting the foster care system?

The BC Greens will also emphasize prevention in our plan to reduce homelessness. We recognize the complex interconnected factors that lead to homelessness, from mental illness and addiction, to domestic violence, to child poverty and inadequate supports for youth aging out of care. We would advocate for a permanent shelter in Burnaby to provide assistance to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Youth aging out of foster care are vulnerable. Extending service to foster youth beyond 19 would do a lot to reduce homelessness among youth. We must invest in on-campus student housing, to reduce off campus demand that conflicts with demand from families and low wage earners. No one in Burnaby should be homeless. Currently, seniors, students, families, young professionals and low wage labourers compete for the same limited housing stock. We need to differentiate the rental stock to provide adequate housing for all. The free market model, P3 model and targeted subsidies are not working well. We must look at best practices worldwide and also consider made in BC solutions to affordability.

7. What strategies and resources would your party commit to assist low income earners to overcome barriers such as to improved employment, better health and resource access?

The Green Party is committed to diversifying the economy, investing in post secondary education, and nurturing start ups and new small businesses. We are also proposing a Universal Basic Income pilot program. We would eliminate the regressive MSP premiums and the bureaucracy associated with it.

8. If elected, what resources would your party allocate to ensure people without homes have access to appropriate emergency shelter and supports in their community?

The City of Burnaby steadfastly stands by the idea that the Province or Federal government must provide the land for an emergency shelter facility. This being the case, as MLAs, we will identify possible provincial or federal lands for such a facility. The Cedar Place lands currently in the process of rezoning comes to mind, but there are certainly othercrown lands or Metro Vancouver lands that might be suitable for an emergency shelter.

9. If elected, what resources would your party commit to Burnaby to address the challenges for Burnaby Citizens who are dealing with homelessness?

In the context of a provincial poverty and housing strategy, we would ensure that Burnaby gets its fair share for those dealing with homelessness.

10. If elected, what will your party do to ensure that short term, transitional housing is established in Burnaby specifically for people who are dealing with homelessness?

The greatest barriers to providing transitional housing seems to be land costs. We know that the City of Burnaby alone controls over 400 properties. The addresses to these properties are not divulged as the City claims it could compromise its economic interests. As MLAs and with the cooperation of the City and Province, we would compile an inventory of publicly owned properties. With this information, we can begin a discussion about adding transitional housing to the existing stock.

Further Information

Today, the Green Party released its Affordable homes strategy. It sees safe,secure, affordable housing as a human right. While we seek to cool demand in the market housing sector, we want to increase the supply of affordable  housing by:

-investing up to $750M to build 4000 new units annually

– working with the city and feds to free up land for affordable housing

– address deficiencies by prioritizing need. Given the demolitions of affordable rentals and Burnaby`s last place on the RHI, we see a lot of need to address.

– comprehensive rethinking of municipal zoning regulations to meet the provincial objective. We would argue that the current government objective is accommodating growth and unlocking values, while our priority is to ensure housing at all income levels.

– protect and enhance the existing social housing stock (and land)

– we will maintain and enhance existing housing and income programs.

 April 11, 2017

Andrew Weaver releases B.C. Green Party Affordable Homes Strategy

VANCOUVER B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, released party’s Affordable Homes Strategy today in Vancouver. The strategy aims to cool the overheated housing market, increase the availability of affordable housing and provide greater protections for renters.

“The policies of the B.C. Liberal government have left British Columbians with an affordability crisis,” said Weaver. “Thousands of British Columbians spend than half their income on rent, a growing number face homelessness and many feel the dream of owning a home is out of reach. In a province as wealthy as ours, it is reprehensible that so many people are struggling to see a secure future for themselves.

“The B.C. Green Party Affordable Homes Strategy is bold, based on evidence and recognizes that the first job of the housing market must be to provide homes for the people who live here, not investment for those wealthy enough to speculate on it. If we take action now, we can build a province where everyone feels secure and optimistic about their future.”

Key measures of the strategy include:

1. Cooling the market for residential real estate:

  • Work with the Federal government to introduce measures to eliminate money laundering and international property speculation from the B.C. residential real estate market.

  • Enhance the progressive nature of the property transfer tax (PTT) by introducing a sliding scale of rates from 0% on the first $200,000 of property’s value, to 12% on property value over $3.0 million. For properties under $1 million, PTT will decline.

  • Apply the PTT to the transfer of beneficial ownership.

  • Introduce a “speculation” PTT to discourage flipping of property.

  • Expand the foreign buyers tax to apply across the province, and increase the rate to 30% in addition to the PTT payable.

  • Introduce measures to tax lifetime capital gains in excess of $750,000 on principal residences.

  • Work with financial institutions and the federal government to develop protections for recent homebuyers who are negatively affected by market cooling initiatives.

  • A B.C. Green Government will begin the transition from home owner grants (HOG) to a system of income-based grants starting in 2019.

  • Introducing a progressive property tax system that imposes a surtax based on property value; and allows homeowners to credit rental income and their previous year’s B.C. income tax against the surtax.

2.  Increasing the supply of affordable housing:

  • Investing up to $750 million per year in capital expenditures to construct approximately 4,000 new units of affordable housing per year.

  • Work with Federal and Local governments to make land available for the construction of affordable housing.

  • Work with social housing agencies and Federal and Local governments to develop and implement a provincial housing plan to address deficiencies in the supply of affordable rental accommodation based on priority needs.

  • Lead a comprehensive rethink of zoning to ensure that it is consistent with government objectives such as the provision of affordable housing. Issues for consideration include densification, especially along transit corridors; revitalizing neighbourhoods surrounding schools; cultural and social amenities; and complete communities.

  • Protect existing social housing and reduce operating costs by investing $100 million per year in retrofits and renovations of older units.

3. Protecting tenants and landlords:

  • Enhance the provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act to control rent increases, and to protect tenants from tenure termination that will result in the loss of affordable accommodation.

  • Work with B.C. Housing to enable the inclusion of private rental properties in their directly managed portfolio of affordable accommodation.

The B.C. Green Party Affordable Homes Strategy will also maintain or enhance existing housing support programs in the context of the suite of initiatives to address income insecurity.