Premier John Horgan speaks during a press conference in Maple Ridge on Wednesday afternoon. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Horgan talks homelessness and affordable housing

Premier visits Maple Ridge on Wednesday

As Premier John Horgan announced $3 million for seismic upgrades at two Maple Ridge schools on Wednesday, one of the first responses on social media was “what about the homeless …”

Whether because it has been a hot political topic in Maple Ridge, or because it is Homeless Action Week (Oct. 8-14), the issue is never far from the public conscious.

The premier was ready with an answer.

“We announced at the Union of B.C. municipalities 2,000 modular homes – not just the capital cost and construction, but operating costs for those for the next three years,” Horgan said at Fairview elementary.

“Vancouver took us up on that with 600 units, Surrey 150 units, and Smithers and other communities are applying to get access to these modular homes,” Horgan said.

The province will build the 2,000 units over the next two years, he added.

“They can be built quickly, they can address the hard to house, and I believe it’s a good step in the right direction.”

The modular homes have been identified as an option for Maple Ridge, in meetings between city officials and B.C. Housing.

Last month, the province announced the 600 modular housing units in Vancouver. Each will have its own kitchen and bathroom, while laundry and amenity spaces are shared. The province has committed $66 million to the buildings alone.

Horgan also talked about housing affordability, the Residential Tenancy Act, and the practice of renovictions, which has come to Maple Ridge, where tenants are mass evicted, buildings renovated, and rents hiked beyond the annual limits set by government.

“The renoviction issue is a critical one, when we have a housing supply crisis. That puts inordinate pressure on tenants,” he said.

“So we need to make sure we’re doinn more rental purpose buiding in British Columbia. That’s part of our plan, and we will be announcing those in the month ahead.”

He said his government is trying to “re-balance” the residential tenancy office.

“We need to find a balance between landlords and tenants. That hasn’t existed in British Columbia, in my view, and we want to right that, and make sure everyone is getting fair access – both landlords and tenants.

Horgan said government has a role to play in affordability.

“We have many more housing announcements to come – not just on affordable housing, but also housing affordability as well, on demand and supply, both of those need to be addressed and we’re going to be working as hard as we can to make sure that everyone who wants to be in a home can be in a home as quickly as possible.”

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