Housing affordability in the spotlight

New Democrat MLAs will host town hall Tuesday night at Reynolds secondary

The housing affordability crisis is being felt across Saanich and the South Island. The impacts of that housing crunch will be in the spotlight Oct. 11 at Reynolds secondary school.

Saanich South MLA Lana Popham will join her NDP counterparts Rob Fleming (Victoria – Swan Lake) and Carole James (Victoria – Beacon Hill)  along with party housing critic David Eby for a town hall from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the school, 3963 Borden St.

“We know as MLAs who represent this area that the effects of unaffordability for people are really starting to be very obvious here. In Saanich, if you’re trying to rent some place or buy a place, it’s out of reach almost on both counts right now,” said Popham.

She said the town hall will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the issue as well as a venue to make their views heard.

Popham said the first step in addressing the housing crisis is understanding its scope, not just in the Lower Mainland but other parts of the province such as the South Island.

“Unfortunately, for many years we’ve not had an inventory of who’s buying our houses and tracking that. There’s been some big concerns regarding foreign money coming into our areas and purchasing properties,” said Popham, outlining concerns absentee owners and vacation rentals are having on the market.

“I’ve been scanning the rental ads in Saanich and it’s tough, there’s not a lot of choice. So if you’re relocating, if you’re a family that wants to relocate near a certain school in Saanich, there’s not a lot of choice on where you can rent.”

Popham said there is more the province could be doing to address the issue.

“You could have a housing affordability fund, there are loopholes that can be closed in the Property Transfer Tax. There are things like that that need to be tweaked but, as it stands right now, unfortunately we’re behind because we don’t know what has happened.”

Popham said problems stemming from the housing crisis have even spread to the province’s farmland. She points to countries purchasing B.C. farmland and bringing in foreign workers, sending both the profits and the crops back home to their country.

“We have one country that’s putting forward $3 trillion to purchase food-producing lands around the globe. That’s happening in British Columbia but we have no way, again, of tracking that. From an agricultural perspective, there’s legislation that could be put forward that says there will be no foreign ownership of farmland or [puts a limit on the] amount of farmland that could be purchased by other countries.”