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Liberal Party Responses 

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Garrison Duke             Karen Wang

Burnaby Edmonds     Burnaby Deer Lake

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 Richard Lee              Steve Darling 

Burnaby North           Burnaby Lougheed

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

 Today’s BC Liberals have made jobs and economic growth a priority to ensure we are able to take care of the people that we love.  As a result, we are able to make investments in programs to help people in need.

We have taken significant steps to increase affordable housing. Since 2001, $6.3 billion has been invested in housing for low-income British Columbians, vulnerable seniors and families. This includes $920 million last year to acquire, construct and renovate 5,300 rental housing units – the largest investment in a single year in Canadian history.

Today’s BC Liberals strongly believe in supportive housing, which integrates support services with housing so people can move beyond temporary shelter to more secure housing, gain greater self-reliance, and achieve strong employment. Through innovative new initiatives like the Homeless Prevention Program, we provide people at risk of homelessness access to housing and support services.

Since 2001, we have also developed or preserved over 6,900 housing units for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness across the province.

Last year alone, over $200 million was provided to support over 14,000 emergency shelter spaces, subsidized units and rent supplements for those who were homeless across B.C. This includes close to 2,000 permanent, year round shelter beds. Nearly 8,800 subsidized housing units for people who are homeless or homeless at risk; and more than 3,200 rent supplements.

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.

Today’s BC Liberals recognize the critical importance of affordable housing and the investments our government has made reflect this. Since 2001, we have invested or committed to a total of $6.3 billion to provide affordable housing supply for low-income seniors, families and British Columbians. Through these investments we have completed close to 24,000 new units of affordable housing.

We’re also providing a billion dollar tax cut to the middle class in B.C. by reducing MSP premiums by 50%, saving the families an average of $900 per year. This MSP cut benefits 2 million British Columbians, on top of the 2 million who currently pay no MSP at all – and we’re working towards eliminating premiums entirely.

Our plan of action is guided by 6 key principles:

  • Ensuring the dream of home ownership remains within the reach of the middle class
  • Increasing housing supply
  • Smart transit expansion
  • Supporting first-time home buyers
  • Ensuring consumer protection
  • Increasing rental supply

To implement these principles, Today’s BC Liberals will:

  • Increase housing supply by working with municipalities to speed up permitting and open new opportunities for housing.
  • Expand the Home Renovation Tax Credit eligibility to those renovating their home to accommodate a secondary suite.
  • Raise the threshold of the First Time Home Buyers’ Program exemption to $500,000, saving first-time buyers up to $8,000.
  • Invest $700 million in the BC HOME Partnership program to provide mortgage down payment assistance loans to an estimated 42,000 first-time home buyers over the next three years.
  • Continue support for RAP and SAFER to assist over 33,000 low-income families and senior households with their rent each year.
  • Provide housing support to the close to 53,000 seniors’ households that receive assistance today.
  • Maintain the ability of seniors as well as homeowners who are financially supporting a child to defer all or part of their property tax on their primary residence.

Today’s BC Liberal government adopted a comprehensive housing strategy in 2006, with Housing Matters BC.  It was updated in 2012 and we will continue to build on it with the approaches outlined above. 

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

Today’s BC Liberals know that the most effective way to reduce poverty is to create jobs and opportunity through a strong economy. And we’ve done exactly that – leading Canada with over 222,000 new jobs since 2011. Today’s BC Liberals have reduced the number of people dependent on income and disability assistance by 59,000 (24%) since 2001.

BC has some of the most comprehensive supports for low-income individuals and their families in Canada, including subsidized housing, child-care subsidies, dental and optical care for children, free MSP and Pharmacare, child and seniors benefits, and employment services.

We have recently provided $10 million to Food Banks BC to help foodbanks throughout BC distribute fresh, healthy food to those in need. A significant portion of this funding will be used to add refrigeration capacity for food banks in B.C., giving vulnerable families have more consistent access to a greater variety of nutritious foods. This funding builds on the Provincial Farmers’ Food Donation Tax Credit, which is designed to connect families needing food supports with healthy, fresh food by encouraging food producers and farmers to donate fresh vegetables, meat, grain and dairy to local foodbanks and charities.

We are also increasing funding by $6 million annually for the BC Healthy Kids Program to include coverage for hearing aids and improve rates for dental services for children. Almost $23 million a year is currently invested in the program which provides dental care and prescription eyewear to children living in low-income families. About 166,000 low and moderate-income families are eligible for Healthy Kids supports.

To help communities address the root causes of poverty at the local level, Today’s BC Liberals are investing $7 million for a new Community Poverty Reduction Fund that will support community-driven programs tailored to the unique circumstances and needs of each region. The fund will be administered by the Vancouver Foundation and support initiatives such as developing local strategies to reduce poverty, growing local partnerships and launching poverty reduction pilot projects that are either innovative or proving successful in other jurisdictions.

Just as importantly, we’re making record investments in skills training and programs like the Single Parent Employment Initiative to get people out of poverty and into training and work. 92% of participants in this program are single mothers and, so far, we’ve helped 4,400 moms and dads get off social assistance.

Today’s BC Liberals will continue to invest in the success of the Single Parent Employment Initiative with a goal of having 10,000 single parents apply for the program and 5,000 starting jobs. We will also develop a Low Income Families in Transition (LIFT) pilot program that will provide temporary assistance to low-income single working parents so they can take time away from their current employment, or reduce their hours without financial penalty, and assist with training, childcare and transit costs while upgrading or acquiring new skills.

Moving forward, Today’s BC Liberals will continue to focus our efforts on growing the economy, creating jobs, and investing in targeted supports for families that need them.

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?

 A key component of Today’s BC Liberal government’s plan is to increase and preserve affordable housing supply across the province. This includes new commitments of $920 million to support the acquisition, construction, and renovation of almost 5,300 housing units across BC over the next several years – the largest Provincial housing investment in a single year in Canadian history.  From this funding, $9.5 million has been allocated to Burnaby projects to create approximately 192 affordable rental units for seniors and adults with developmental disabilities.

 And the BC Liberal government is investing almost $31 million for housing in Burnaby each year. More than 6,780 units are subsidized in Burnaby, with 723 family households receiving a direct subsidy through the Rental Assistance Program, and 887 senior households receiving assistance through the SAFER program.  Today’s BC Liberal candidates will ensure these investments in our community continue and reflect our constituents’ needs.

We’re also providing a billion dollar tax cut to the middle class in B.C. by reducing MSP premiums by 50%, saving the families an average of $900 per year. This MSP cut benefits 2 million British Columbians, on top of the 2 million who currently pay no MSP at all – and we’re working towards eliminating premiums entirely.

 It is essential that all levels of government work to address this challenge, and we hope that Burnaby’s mayor and council will help us create a stronger and more affordable Province for British Columbians.

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

 In addition to our recent investment of $920 million for housing, Today’s BC Liberals have undertaken innovative programs such as the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) initiative.  Through this program we purchased 26 Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels across the Province to preserve this affordable housing stock for low-income British Columbians. We are now investing $143.3 million to renovate 13 of these buildings.

BC’s Residential Tenancy Act also requires landlords to follow specific rules before issuing a notice to end tenancy for demolition of the rental unit. When undertaking the demolition of a rental unit, landlords must:

  • Have necessary permits before issuing a notice to end tenancy;
  • Give two months’ notice; and
  • Compensate the tenant with an extra payment of one month’s rent.

It is important to recognize that property owners must apply to the municipality for a permit to demolish the building. Municipalities control zoning and bylaws, and in the past have asked that developers provide replacement of rental units prior to granting zoning approval for new projects. We encourage Burnaby voters and the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby to advocate for the City of Burnaby to exercise these powers.

6. If elected what strategies and 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? 

Today’s BC Liberals have a number of initiatives geared specifically towards preventing homelessness for low income individuals and families.

For example, the Homeless Prevention Program effectively steers individuals facing homelessness toward stable housing. With the federal government, we are investing approximately $12.5 million per year to provide rental supplements and support services to individuals at risk of homelessness. Service providers in 50 communities, including the Progressive Housing Society in Burnaby, focus on assisting women fleeing violence, youth aging out of foster care, Aboriginal people who are at risk of homelessness and people leaving hospitals or correctional facilities.

And to help low income earners, the BC Liberal government has rent assistance programs for senior households and working families to make renting in the private market more affordable.   Monthly cash assistance gives low-income households more options, allowing them increased flexibility to choose the neighbourhood they want to live in while keeping their housing costs within their budgets.

Some 35,000 low income families have received Rental Assistance Program benefits since the BC Liberal government introduced the program and 20,000 senior households a year receive assistance.  About 1,650 households in Burnaby families and seniors receive help from these programs.  We elected, we want to ensure that people in Burnaby are aware of these programs and are taking advantage of the benefits we are able to provide because our economy is strong.

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 foundation of Today’s BC Liberals’ plan is a strong, growing, and diverse economy that creates good-paying jobs for British Columbians. Because a job is the best way to look after the people we love. Because of this strong foundation – Canada’s strongest economy and best job creation – we can look after the people we love and invest in the things that matter to British Columbians, like health care, education, and supports for those who need a helping hand.

We will continue to invest in the success of the Single Parent Employment Initiative with a goal of having 10,000 single parents apply for the program and 5,000 starting jobs.

We are also committed developing a Low Income Families in Transition (LIFT) pilot program that will provide temporary assistance to low-income single working parents so they can take time away from their current employment, or reduce their hours without financial penalty, and assist with training, childcare and transit costs while upgrading or acquiring new skills.

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

During the winter months, Today’s BC Liberal government has ensured extra shelter spaces are available so that vulnerable individuals have access to a safe, warm place at night. We are spending $1.6 million to support over 1,000 emergency shelter spaces across the province that are activated when local communities issue an extreme weather alert. The average capacity for these shelters has been about 60%. These spaces are in addition to the almost 2,000 permanent, year-round shelter beds in B.C., more than double the number of beds that were available in 2001.

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

 The Homeless Outreach Program connects people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to housing, income assistance, and community-based support services in more than 60 communities across British Columbia, including Burnaby. Last year, provincially-funded outreach workers connected more than 7,100 homeless people to housing and a range of support services. To support this endeavor, funding for supportive housing, rent supplements and outreach services has more than doubled since 2011, totaling $89 million annually.

Working closely with our non-profit partners, we have allocated 40 rent supplements within Burnaby. These supplements allow at risk individuals to find access to stable housing and services, including mental health and addiction treatment. Today’s BC Liberal’s candidates for Burnaby are at the table and ready to work with our non-profit partners to ensure the needs of our community are met.

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? What time frame?

Today’s BC Liberal candidates are ready and willing to bring short-term and supportive transitional housing to Burnaby. Our government has demonstrated our commitment to those who are homeless and those at risk of homelessness right across British Columbia, funding more than 2,000 permanent year-round shelter beds and partnering with eight local governments to provide close to $500 million for 2,000 new supportive housing units.

But we cannot provide housing solutions in isolation – we need cooperation and commitment from the City of Burnaby. The BC Liberal government has been trying to work with Burnaby’s mayor and council for more than a decade to establish a purpose-built shelter, and our attempts have met considerable resistance.

We would encourage Burnaby voters and members of the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby to call on the City of Burnaby to work with the provincial government to ensure that short-term housing is available for those who need it most.