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Housing minister tells Maple Ridge summit ideas to add more units

‘Not a war on single family homes’ says Kahlon

The province is getting more involved providing affordable housing to British Columbians, B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told an affordable housing summit in Maple Ridge on Tuesday.

The City of Maple Ridge hosted the summit at the Albion Community Centre, and Kahlon kicked off the conversation as keynote speaker.

“What we know has to happen, is we need to ensure that we get government needs to get into the housing game, in a big way,” said Kahlon.

“The amount of affordable housing that hasn’t been built in the last few decades is part of the challenge that we’re in now.”

Kahlon spoke about the NDP government budgeting $4.2 billion over the next three years, which is the largest housing investment in the province’s history. It supports the recently announced Homes for People plan, and the government’s pledge to be innovative in providing more housing opportunities.

READ ALSO: B.C. government’s new housing plan ‘ambitious’ but critics call for clarity

As part of the plan, the province will bring forward legislation to allow construction up to four units on larger single family lots. Builders will be able to proceed without having to seek rezoning at their local city hall, or jump through bureaucratic hoops.

“This is not a war on single-family homes,” he said. “This is about giving people options.”

With the coming change, people could pool their resources, purchase a lot, and build four single-family homes on that single lot.

More information on that initiative is coming.

He said senior governments will de-politicize decision making for local government in other ways.

New regulations will allow local governments to establish an Official Community Plan, and if a proposed building project fits in the OCP, it will not have to be brought before city council for approvals.

“Once that OCP is complete, then the decision making should be left to the staff, to ensure that the pieces in that project fit…” he said.

Kahlon said seven communities, including Delta, have already accepted this process, and he said “There’s more certainty for everyone.”

READ ALSO: Housing crisis: Asking ‘can I afford to live in the Lower Mainland?’

“If we don’t build the type of housing that people need, that they can actually afford – that young families can afford, we’re going to see those housing stock that we have, existing housing stock, be only available to those who have the greatest amount of wealth. Which will fundamentally change our communities.

“It’s happening, We have communities where there are no young kids anymore. How do you have a vibrant community if young families are not able to come and live in your community, where there’s no young kids running around your neighbourhood?”

He said whether young families can stay in a community will be the measure of success on this issue.

It’s an issue that hits home for Kahlon, who admits he worries whether this son will one day be able to afford a home of his own.

“Quite frankly I’m worried for people in my community. I’ve got young people who are telling me that they’re going to leave the province because they don’t see an opportunity to have a home, or even afford rent anymore,” he said. “I have seniors in my community who tell me they’re moving, because their kids have moved to another province, and they want to be close to them. These are the types of things we don’t want to see in our communities.”

Kahlon Maple Ridge has a “real serious” intention to address housing issue.

He said the summit was a worthwhile effort.

“It definitely is worthwhile, and I give props and credit to Mayor (Dan) Ruimy for taking that step,” he said. “The truth is, this all is going to be solved through collaboration. It’s all going to be solved by people coming together and understanding that these are complex conversations that need everyone to work together to solve.”

“It was refreshing to hear the mayor talking about wanting to get to solutions, as opposed to the problems,” he said. “And I look forward to connecting with the mayor and councillors, and working with my colleagues in the coming months, to address some of the housing challenges.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

Neil Corbett has been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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