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Trudeau announces $2B in fed loans for BC Builds program

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Ottawa is kicking in an extra $2 billion in financing for the recently announced BC Builds program, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

Last week, B.C. Premier David Eby launched the initiative, which aims to build middle-class rental homes on public, non-profit, community-owned and “underused” land. The provincial government is also providing $2 billion in construction financing, and a $950 million investment for the project.

“Solving the housing crisis is a complex problem, and it won't be solved by simplistic slogans or buzzwords,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Vancouver, praising the BC Builds program as “ambitious,” “visionary” and “fundamentally practical.”

The federal money comes in the form of low-cost loans through the apartment construction loan program, and will help build “a minimum” of 8,000 to 10,000 units over the next few years, the prime minister said.

“B.C. was actually the canary in the coal mine for the problems we’re seeing across the country around housing affordability,” Trudeau said. “Home prices here started going up decades ago… inaction by successive governments of all orders, investors buying up homes meant for middle class families and old-school zoning laws didn't make communities grow in ways that kept up with Canada brought us to a tough spot here in B.C.”

Eby also announced a new BC Builds site on Tuesday—a 122-unit co-op in Yaletown on city-owned land. He said construction is expected to start in the summer. That’s in addition to the previously announced City of North Vancouver-owned site where a non-profit is developing an 18-storey tower; a site in Duncan owned by the Cowichan Tribes and a Town of Gibsons-owned site.

The province says it has identified “more than” 20 potential developments for the program on government, First Nations and non-profit-owned land.

Under BC Builds, at least 20 per cent of units are required to have rents at least 20 per cent below market rate if the development is by a non-profit or a First Nation. And all units are “targeted” to be affordable for middle-income households spending about 30 per cent of their income on rent.

In addition, BC Builds aims to slash the development timeline from a current average of three to five years to one to one-and-a-half years, according to the province.

“We need to make sure that housing is affordable so that a middle class salary is enough for people to live in the communities they love and where they work,” Trudeau continued.

“These won't be your typical tiny one-bedroom units that have been popping up across downtowns across the country. These will be units of all sizes including up to three or four bedrooms, the kinds of places where families can grow and they can call home.” 

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