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Modelling predicts B.C. reforms will create 293K housing units over 10 years

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The B.C. government has unveiled new details on the housing reforms passed during a whirlwind fall legislature sitting – along with a modelling prediction that the measures could lead to 293,000 additional housing units over the next decade.

On Tuesday, officials provided regulations and policy manuals outlining how local governments will be expected to implement Bill 35, Bill 44 and Bill 47, which are intended to curb short-term rentals, increase multi-unit housing, and create high-density transit hubs across the province, respectively.

Speaking at a B.C. Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Premier David Eby said the province's increasingly unaffordable housing threatens to scare off much-needed professionals from a variety of industries – and that "doing nothing is not an option."

"The engineers, the computer scientists, the construction workers, the skilled trade workers – if they cannot afford to live in our province because of housing, business can't be successful," Eby said.

The premier also shared the findings of a modelling analysis – prepared by "esteemed economists," he said – that predicted Bill 44 and Bill 47 alone could result in the creation of between 216,000 and 293,000 net new housing units over 10 years.

The modellers estimated the impacts of the province's frameworks for multi-unit homes and transit hubs, analyzing the implementation of similar policies in a number of local and international jurisdictions.

"One of the jurisdictions that we looked at in creating this legislation was Auckland, New Zealand. They saw 20,000 new units since 2016 in one city, in five years since they brought in their legislative changes – so we know that this works," Eby said.

In a news release, the Ministry of Housing noted that the modelling prediction is dependent on many variables, and "cannot account for unforeseen circumstances, the changing nature of housing, real estate markets and other factors."

The regulations for Bill 35 detail several types of properties exempt from the principal residence requirement for short-term rentals, including timeshares, home exchanges, hunting lodges, and university-run student accommodations.

Municipalities with a rental vacancy rate in excess of three per cent for the previous two years can opt out of the principal residence requirement as well.

Officials also confirmed the short-term rental rules do not apply to hotels, motels, recreational vehicles, tents or temporary shelters.

On Bill 44, the province's regulations detail requirements for municipalities to update zoning bylaws to allow either "a minimum of one secondary suite or detached accessory dwelling unit, a minimum of three to four dwelling units, or a minimum of six dwelling units in selected areas near bus stops with frequent transit service," the ministry said.

The government's regulations for Bill 47 designate 104 transit-oriented development areas in 31 communities across the province – locations where local officials will be forced to allow high-density housing, and are sometimes barred from mandating residential parking.

The vast majority of the transit-oriented development areas are in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, including 27 within Vancouver alone.

While there have been growing calls to address the province's housing crisis, the pace of the government's legislation this fall has been met with criticism from opposition parties, who have accused the NDP of limiting debate on its measures.

Eby acknowledged the speed of the work at Thursday's luncheon, joking that the government "just about broke" Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon during the fall sitting. 

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