Affordability in Provincial Party Platforms

The following are highlights of housing and transportation affordability policies in the 2017 BC provincial party platforms, and comments based on the Cities for Everyone Affordability Agenda.

Green Party

  • Reform property taxes to reduce speculative and foreign real estate purchases, and discourage vacancies.
  • Shift from homeowner to income-based grants to provide financial benefits to renters.
  • Invest $750 million annually to build approximately 4,000 housing units annually, and in other ways support more social housing.
  • Lead a comprehensive “rethink” of zoning to ensure that it is consistent with government objectives such as affordable housing. This would include densification around transit, neighborhood revitalization, cultural and social amenities, and complete communities.
  • Incentives to increase rental housing development.
  • Better tenant and landlord legal protections, including more rent control, and allowing private rental properties to receive affordable housing funds.
  • Invest an additional $152 million and work with local governments to improve public transit, and consider mobility pricing.
  • Increase investments in walking, cycling and public transit, and ensure that transit fares are affordable, to encourage mode shifting as an emission reduction strategy.
  • Encourage more compact, multi-modal community design.

 

New Democratic Party

The NDP Platform includes these affordability strategies:

  • Through partnerships, build 114,000 new rental, social and co-op housing units during a ten-year period.
  • Make sure renters are treated fairly, and both renters and landlords understand their rights and responsibilities.
  • Crack down on “cheaters” who distort BC’s housing market.
  • Eliminate bridge tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.
  • Work with local mayors to invest in reliable transit infrastructure, and to make travelling safer for people walking, riding bicycles and using other forms of active transportation.
  • Freeze or reduce BC Hydro, ICBC and BC Ferry rates.

 

Liberal Party

  • Cap bridge tolls at $500 annually per vehicle.
  • Allow “ridesharing” (actually called “ride hailing”) services such as Uber and Lyft.
  • Invest $2.2 billion in Metro Vancouver transit and $333 million in BC Transit
  • Increase housing supply by working with municipalities to speed up permitting and open new opportunities for housing.
  • Invested more than $230 million in cycling infrastructure since 2001 (this averages about $15 million annually, or about 0.7% of the provincial transportation budget).
  • Provide mortgage down payment assistance loans to first-time home buyers.
  • Provide targeted rental assistance to low-income households.

 

Discussion

Of the three platforms, the BC Greens offer the most comprehensive range of affordability strategies, including policies that would reduce real estate price inflation, support more affordable infill housing development, and improve affordable transport modes (walking, cycling and public transit).

The NDP platform relies largely on financial subsidies to develop social housing, and reduce bridge tolls, electricity rates, vehicle insurance premiums and ferry fares. These reduce costs to households that receive subsidized housing or commute on currently-tolled bridges, but do little to increase affordable housing and transport options for other households.

The BC Liberal platform also relies significantly on subsidies to reduce costs. Their first-time home buyers’ loan program is criticized for inflating the prices of moderate-priced housing and encouraging moderate-income households to spend more than they can afford in the long-run on housing. Although they claim to invest in public transit, the BC Liberals have rejected requests for new transit funding options such as dedicated fuel taxes.

NDP and  Liberal proposals to reduce or eliminate bridge tolls have been criticized as unfair to most households, those that don’t travel regularly over those bridges and will bear additional costs, and for contradicting efforts to use tolls to reduce traffic congestion and encourage shifts to use of resource-efficient modes.

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