MLA touts BC United housing plan

Plan to address housing

Lately we have read headlines about how many housing units are required to house all of the people calling Kelowna home. But we are not seeing the corresponding housing starts required.

Last week, HM Commercial Real Estate hosted its “Crystal Ball” event to a packed house and we heard about why developers aren’t moving forward on projects.

The current real estate climate, as detailed in a recent Castanet article, underscores the critical challenges facing our housing market. High finance costs, restrictive regulations, and rising construction prices have significantly dampened the spirits of developers and investors alike.

Simply put, pre-sales involve people willing to put deposits down for two to three years while the project is being built, which banks require to finance the projects.

While our premier singles out these people as “speculators”, without pre-sales, a project cannot move forward, and we don’t have enough housing.

There has been a flurry of changes over the last year with provincial legislation under the NDP including changing the zoning of all single-family homes to multi-family, changing strata rules so there are no rental restrictions except no short-term rentals, adding the speculation tax to Lake Country (as of 2025), intensifying density around transit stops and taking away public hearings for conforming zoning changes and development permits.

But none of these measures made home ownership more affordable, which means none of these measures made rent costs less. None of these measures stimulated growth and building, instead all were focused on quelling demand and restricting uses for home owners.

The government came out last week with its new BC Builds plan, and it landed with a thud. Rather than stimulating new building, it chastised the private sector as not being able to deliver and the government is now going to become the developer on government lands.

But this isn’t what British Columbians want. They want to afford rent, and have the dream of owning a home at some point.

In a dynamic move, poised to reshape the housing landscape, BC United led by Kevin Falcon responded to the NDP’s plan by unveiling a comprehensive housing plan that directly addresses the pressing issues plaguing Kelowna's market.

The plan is a response to the complexities woven from the fabric of the community's needs and market realities. The plan comprises four cornerstone policies designed to inject vitality into the housing market and make homeownership more accessible to Kelowna residents.

1. Rent to own for all first-time homebuyers—This innovative program promises a bridge for those caught in the chasm between renting and homeownership. By offering a rent-to-own option, the plan ia not only facilitating a smoother transition for first-time buyers but instilling confidence in their financial planning for the future. All new developments will hold 15% of their units for a rent-to-own option for new homebuyers.

2. Elimination of PST on housing—Recognizing the financial burden placed on new developments, BC United proposes to abolish the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on housing. This move is expected to lower the costs associated with new housing projects, encouraging developers to embark on more ventures.

3. Utilization of government-owned lands for subsidized affordable housing—By leveraging government-owned lands, we can fast-track the development of affordable housing projects, offering relief to those most in need and supporting our workforce.

4. Raising the Property Transfer Tax threshold to $1 million for first-time homebuyers—This policy is tailored to lessen the financial strain on first-time buyers, making homeownership more attainable. By increasing the threshold, we're acknowledging the current market conditions and providing a much-needed cushion for new entrants into the housing market.

Each of these measures are aimed at making home ownership a reality again, by making it more affordable. If we want it to be more affordable, then it has to cost less to build.

The residential housing market has lagged as interest rates have risen, stifled by regulations and a lack of innovative solutions. BC United's housing plan addresses these issues head-on, fostering an environment where development is encouraged, affordability is addressed and the dream of homeownership is within reach for more Kelowna residents.

My question to you is this:

Do you think that it is time for the dream of home ownership to be a reality again for the next generation?

I love reading your emails, and I look forward to reading every one. Please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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