Province steadfast on housing targets despite municipal push-back

A total of 30 cities, towns and villages are now on a quota list meant to spur new housing in communities where residents are struggling to live, and Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is not deterred by those such as New Westminster, which says it’s being unfairly targeted.

“I’m calling BS on the priority list,” said New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone at a media event in his city on Tuesday. “This government has to stop pointing fingers and start doing its job to get housing built.” 

New Westminster and 19 other municipalities were added to a list of 10 cities, originally named in June 2023, that must meet higher housing targets over a five-year period.

The list of 30, could expand even further as the province’s Housing Supply Act gives Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon the power to order housing targets for as many as 47 municipalities.

Johnstone said he was “stunned” to learn his city was on the list, considering it has added 5,132 residential units in the past 10 years, with another 3,000 units either with approved permits or already under construction.

“I simply don’t understand how we can be prioritized for targets when there are cities across this region … that have spent decades falling short,” said Johnstone.

A man stands at a microphone and gestures.
New Westminster Mayor Patrick Johnstone pictured at a news conference on Tuesday April 23, where he was critical of the province over his city being added to a list of municipalities that must meet housing targets over a five-year period. (CBC News)

The comments show the potential pitfalls of the province getting involved in municipal planning and approval of housing, something over which cities and towns normally have autonomy.

If Kahlon was bothered by Johnstone’s grumbling — or that of others, such as the mayors of Burnaby and Oak Bay — he isn’t making it public.

“It’s not about friends, it’s about getting housing built and that’s what we all need to do and work together on it,” he said from Victoria on Tuesday.

WATCH | Housing minister challenges mayors to talk to constituents over housing:

B.C.’s housing minister says some mayors not getting an accurate picture of housing in their communities

2 hours ago

Duration 0:31

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon is defending his government’s Housing Supply Act, which allows it to set housing targets in communities, following blowback from mayors who say they are already meeting targets.

Kahlon said the latest additions to his list might not need to add as much housing for their communities as the original 10. According to that list, Kamloops will need to add 4,236 units to meet the target, while the City of Vancouver will need 28,900 units.

He praised communities, including New Westminster, for the work they were doing to approve development faster, but said more collaborative work needed to be done.

The province uses data from B.C. Stats, Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to set targets.

It assesses a municipality’s housing needs and a municipality’s most recent housing needs report and then sets targets at 75 per cent of the higher of the two estimates.

Kahlon says the data allows all three levels of government to be in league over providing housing and the money needed to build it, along with upgrading infrastructure such as roads, sewers and schools.

‘What more can we do?’

In his criticism, Johnstone said the province was wasting time putting his city on its target list, rather than putting up funds for it to complete projects, such as a supportive housing project approved by the city in 2021.

“We approve affordable housing. We pre-zoned land for it. We provide capital funds to support it. We have begged the province for it. What more can we do?”

CBC News contacted other municipalities on the expanded list that also expressed surprise to be included, because of housing already being built in their communities, but said they would work with the housing ministry.

In May, which will be six months after targets were announced, the province is expected to release a report on the progress made by the first cohort of cities.

Targets for the additional 20 municipalities are expected to be released in the summer, after the province consults with them. Targets will be measured annually by net new units completed and actions taken by the municipality to meet the targets.

If the cumulative annual housing target has not been met, the municipality will be required to submit planned actions they will take within two years to meet the target, said the province.


Posted in CBC