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MLA REPORT: Turning empty houses into homes for people

By Murray Rankin
Murray Rankin is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head. (Courtesy of Murray Rankin’s office)

By Murray Rankin

MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head

There is no question that Oak Bay-Gordon Head is an incredible place to live. We have diverse neighbourhoods full of life, character, and incredible people – including newcomers, young families, retired seniors, UVic and Camosun students, and more. Living side by side with people from all walks of life enriches our lives by teaching us to better cooperate and empathize. But just like the rest of B.C., our community is dealing with low vacancy rates and affordability challenges that have made it harder for people to find housing. As MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and now as the acting minister responsible for housing, I know how important it is for people to be able to live in the communities they work and go to school in.

That’s why we introduced the Speculation and Vacancy Tax in 2018 in B.C.’s major urban centres to moderate the market and increase housing supply. We wanted to encourage people to sell or rent their vacant properties because houses should be used as homes, not as safety deposit boxes. Since the tax came into effect, we’ve already seen thousands of vacant properties turn into homes in the taxable areas, including here in the Capital Regional District. This means more housing is available for UVic and Camosun students pursuing their education, entrepreneurs and young professionals building their careers and contributing to our local economy, and new families wanting to start a life in our community. All people who help make Oak Bay-Gordon Head what it is.

Recently, an independent analysis found that the Speculation and Vacancy Tax added around 20,000 condo units to the long-term rental market just in Metro Vancouver. The study also highlighted that prior to the pandemic, the tax was keeping housing prices lower than they would otherwise have been. Now we are expanding the tax to more communities, including North Cowichan, Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, Lions Bay, and Squamish, to help ensure that housing is available for the people who work and live there. The benefits for all of B.C. will be enormous, but there is still much more to do to address this crisis.

ALSO READ: City of Victoria adopts ‘historic’ affordable housing process

We are making the largest investment in housing in the province’s history – more than 114,000 homes over a decade. Since introducing the plan, we’ve funded nearly 34,000 affordable new homes across B.C. Part of this is much-needed on-campus housing – the previous government built only 130 student housing beds in 16 years. Since 2017, we already have more than 6,800 student housing beds open or underway, including over 600 units opening at UVic next month. Kevin Falcon and the BC Liberals failed to act when British Columbians were counting on them. Now they are against many of the measures we’ve put in to help people, including the Speculation and Vacancy Tax, and capping rent increases to inflation, saving the average B.C. family over $1,000 a year in additional rent

Our government is committed to addressing the housing crisis, and we have been since Day 1. The work we’ve done has made a difference, but we know there is much more to do to ensure that communities like Oak Bay-Gordon Head can stay a welcoming place for everyone.

Murray Rankin is the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

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