New Housing And Infrastructure Woes Top Of Mind At UBCM 2024 Housing Summit

This year’s Union of the BC Municipalities (UBCM) 2024 housing summit was unique as it was the first time “in a while” that all 3 levels of government were in the same room. Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, BC Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and mayors from various municipalities across BC met under one roof, giving local leaders an opportunity to express frustrations over housing and transit in the region.

Infrastructure challenges, transit, and the lack of provincial engagement with municipalities were key themes reflected by the local mayors who attended. 

In November, the province introduced ground-breaking housing legislation aimed on how to accommodate the province’s growing population growth, so much of the UBCM agenda was centred on navigating this.

A key part of the new legislation allowing for the construction of 4 to 6 units on single family lots was a notable topic, especially on its impact on infrastructure. “The infrastructure challenges in small and rural communities are important to contemplate,” said Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison, who emphasized that infrastructure was older in rural communities than in larger ones and would require more investment.

Richmond’s Mayor Malcom Brodie was particularly critical of the province’s new housing initiatives aimed at creating denser communities. “I’m not a fan of what the province has done,” said Brodie. He continued, “Everybody in this room and everybody online would probably agree with that we need to provide more housing. But as far as I am concerned, the answer is not to throw it open and have four to six (units) everywhere.”

All mayors raised concerns over creating infrastructure to support population growth. According to the BC government, population growth is expected to reach 7.9 million by 2046, up 44% compared to 5.5 million in 2023.

Much criticism was heaped on the provincial government’s transit orientated development bill. Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said that there needs to be consistent funding for transit to create the density the province wants.

“For many decades, the can has been kicked down the road over and over again, in terms of finding a funding model that’s going to deliver the transit services that people in our region need. We have run out of road to kick the can down,” said West.

Burnaby’s mayor Mike Hurley said,” There needs to be massive investment in transit and different types of transit around Metro Vancouver, and indeed across the province.”

Transit demand has soared to 120% of pre-pandemic levels in areas like Surry and Langley, and some rapidly growing communities, ridership has more than doubled in the past 4 years, according to a January report by Jones Lang Lasalle IP Inc.

Funding from the Federal government was also a major topic. Currently the federal government provides funds twice a year to provinces and territories to fund their local municipalities’ infrastructure, through the CCBF (Canada Community Building Fund) or gas tax. Asked whether the federal government is considering new ways of providing long-term consistent funding, the Federal Minister replied, “…yes, in part.”

According to the Minister, any funding must make financial sense to the federal government. “I do want to make sure that the federal government is seeing a return on investment. I don’t want to be in a position where we cut a cheque and have no understanding of what it’s going toward, “he said.

The mayors were all disappointed with not being consulted adequately when it came to consultation on creating and implementing the new housing legislation. Langley Mayor Nathan Pachal said that provincial engagement came in the form of press releases.

If you have any questions on this topic or any other real estate related topic, please do not hesitate to contact us by email or phone us on 604 913 1000

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