As the May 9 provincial election fast approaches, Powell River Peak has been asking those vying to represent our riding as MLA a series of questions about local issues. In the latest instalment of our provincial election hot-seat, Powell River-Sunshine Coast candidates were asked about the difficult issue of the lack of affordable housing in the region. [Editor’s note: BC Cascadia Party candidate Reuben Richards did not provide a submission this week.]
What would you do to address the lack of affordable housing in Powell River?
Mathew Wilson, BC Liberal Party
As MLA, I will work with businesses, agencies, local governments and other stakeholders to facilitate investment and development of more housing, both through BC Liberal affordable-housing programs and our housing-affordability plans for first-time homeowners.
Since 2001, the BC Liberal government has invested $4.9 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families. Locally, the government has provided funding for Inclusion Powell River’s 27-unit affordable-housing complex that will help ease the rental shortage. After meeting with Inclusion’s executive director Lilla Tipton, I was keen to hear about their second housing project for seniors and offered my support and assistance if needed.
Over several months, I’ve met with many people, including clients of the Community Resource Centre, Powell River Brain Injury Society, developers, business owners and realtors to discuss affordable housing options.
We need to address the shortage of rental housing by encouraging rental-housing construction so the monthly cost of rentals is affordable. I will help open up new opportunities for development, continue to support first-time homebuyers through the First Time Home Buyers’ Program, and work with local governments to encourage new housing starts.
Most of all, I will ensure that the Liberal government’s historic investment in affordable housing includes investments in Powell River. I will deliver this funding and be your advocate, ensuring your hard-earned tax dollars are reinvested in our riding to expand local opportunities for residents to have a place to call home.
Raised on the Sunshine Coast, with family in Powell River, Mathew Wilson currently lives in Roberts Creek and is father to two daughters. He works for the federal government; 10 years in Ottawa, most recently five years commuting to work in Vancouver. Among his many experiences is five years of negotiating agreements with first nations on resource economic development and residential school claims.
Kim Darwin, BC Green Party
In cooperation with key stakeholders, a BC Green government will develop and implement a comprehensive provincial-housing plan to address the lack of affordable housing in Powell River and other areas of BC.
When people have reliable shelter, both physical and mental health improves. This leads to less reliance on our medical, social and policing systems.
The topic of housing affordability is diverse and needs to be pieced out in order to develop adequate solutions. It covers a range of shelter types, from emergency shelters, transition housing, special-needs housing, seniors housing, residential care, affordable rentals and affordable real estate.
BC Greens will increase the supply of affordable housing through investment and collaboration, increase protection for tenants and landlords, take measures to mitigate money laundering and property speculation and reduce property transfer tax for properties under $1 million.
Addressing the high cost of real estate is fundamental to ensuring affordable rental accommodation. In an effort to obtain facts and data on the effects of foreign real estate investment in BC, I wrote a policy for BC Chamber of Commerce calling on the provincial government to requisition a full provincial study to collect and analyze citizenship and residency data on all real estate property in BC and publish the results.
We must become proactive in our approach to housing affordability. A reactive approach costs our society, both monetarily and socially.
In addition to raising three wonderful children, Kim Darwin was a legal assistant for 16 years before opening her own mortgage broker business. She is president of the Sechelt Chamber of Commerce and was the elected provincial council secretary for the BC Green Party for two and a half years. She is an herbalist, having studied traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and Western herbal medicine.
Nicholas Simons, BC New Democratic Party
The lack of affordable housing in Powell River is part of a province-wide crisis: cities across BC struggle with a shortage of reasonably priced homes.
Single-family home prices in Powell River are up about 15 per cent over last year. As housing costs soared, this government refused to act and rejected opposition legislation that would have addressed the problems earlier. The crisis was identified long ago.
The BC NDP now has committed to devoting $665 million to affordable housing programs over the next three years. That includes a $400 yearly rebate to renters, and the building of 114,000 rental and co-op homes. I will see that Powell River is part of that program.
Building projects by Life Cycle Housing Society and Inclusion Powell River are already providing some needed homes, and the province can now help them do more. I’m also encouraged by City of Powell River council’s efforts to create an Affordable Housing Reserve Fund.
The lack of affordable housing is a double whammy of economic inequality. It’s not just that housing is too expensive, it’s also that many people have less to spend. It’s difficult to afford much on a $10.85 minimum wage, and wages have been stagnant in BC.
Expensive housing costs are made more difficult when the cost of childcare is factored in, with food prices up, hydro, MSP, ferry fares, everything. We need a higher minimum wage, childcare costs within reach at $10 per day, fair fares and fees, dignity in social assistance and good jobs in our communities.
Nicholas Simons was first elected MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast in 2005. Before entering politics, Simons spent more than 15 years working in health, justice, social services and child welfare, including 10 years as director of health and social services for Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nation. Simons, an accomplished cellist, is also a past president of the Sunshine Coast Arts Council.
Next week’s question: How should BC handle the sale of marijuana once it is legalized?