The first ever minister of a standalone ministry aimed at tackling B.C.’s housing crisis is going to have a lot of work ahead.
Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, was named Minister of Housing last week by Premier David Eby. It’s one of two new ministries announced with the rest of the new cabinet that was sworn in.
“Housing is a generational question. You can’t go to a house party or any meeting without the housing issue coming up one way or the other. It can be older folks worried about their kids or their grandkids worried about where they are going to stay. The premier has made this a top priority to move this important issue of housing forward to make sure people have access to the housing they need in their communities,” said Kahlon in an interview with the Optimist.
Kahlon, who had previously been Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, said the new housing ministry will deal with a wide range of issues, from ensuring people are not living in tents, supporting them so they can get back on their feet, to student housing and affordable rentals, working with the private sector as well as non-profits.
The province recently announced other changes aimed at helping local governments speed up their application processes to approve housing proposals, as well as other measures including ending rental restrictions making local governments meet housing growth targets.
“Our priorities for the ministry is to ensure that we can increase the speed of approvals so that we get more housing online faster, to get the supply onto the market we know is currently important on the market side but also the non-market side. Synergies will be important because this role is going to require us to work with a lot of stakeholders, the development community and local government officials and non-for-profits. We want to hear the voices from communities how they want their communities built. It’s going to require a lot of coordination and working with our partners to make sure we get the housing we need,” said Kahlon.
Delta is the leader among B.C. communities, says Kahlon
As far as the recent legislation giving the province the ability to set targets for local governments, Kahlon noted some communities are still behind.
“What we don’t want to do is leave the responsibility of bringing more housing to only a few communities. Everyone has a responsibility to be part of the solution. That is our focus. It’s not to be adversarial but we will have tools. I’d be shocked, though, if any of the mayors don’t want to be part of the solution,” he added.
Kahlon, who made a presentation to Delta council earlier this year saying the province is willing to partner with the city, was highly complementary of the City of Delta’s efforts, which included undertaking a housing needs assessment, coming up with a new housing action plan to recently introducing streamlining measures including not requiring public hearings for applications that already comply with an official community plan. He also said Delta is clearly number one when it comes to dealing with the issue.
He said the city has done a good job bringing different voices to the table to be part of community planning, while creating clear guidelines for the community, developers and not-for-profit sector.
“British Columbia has always been and will continue to be a welcoming place for people all over the world. We know that last year we had a 100,000, net, people come. In the first two quarters of this year, we’re at 72,000. That’s great because we are going to need that for the economy, but we’re also going to need to ensure that we’re going to have the housing…I’m not saying we’re going to add housing just for millionaires who park their money in our communities, because that’s not what we want. We want units where people can afford to live in the community. We’re going to work with our partners to ensure we have regional goals in place and that we can meet our targets,” he said.