British Columbia’s latest budget has earmarked billions of dollars in new spending to tackle the province’s housing crisis, but the very same document shows the province is falling behind when it comes to getting shovels in the ground.

Estimates in the NDP’s latest three-year fiscal plan showed 46,721 new housing starts in B.C. last year, but projected a 16.5-per cent decrease this year to just 39,033 starts, and a further decline to 37,037 housing starts in 2024.

Meanwhile, despite a cooling market, the latest data from the B.C. Real Estate Association showed home ownership remains out of the grasp of many, with the provincewide average price across all unit types sitting at more than $870,000 in January.

“Let’s call it what it is. A colossal public policy failure,” BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said of the numbers Thursday.

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The industry says it’s facing several problems, including a lack of available skilled tradespeople and ongoing permit and approval delays at the municipal level.

Canadian Homebuilders Association of B.C. CEO Neil Moody said his organization has been lobbying the government for more resources and to speed up the development review process.

“The labour shortage is the number one issue. Builders cannot find enough trades to do the work,” he said.

“It has subsided a little bit with the downturn in the market, but it’s still the number one cause of projects not moving faster, not being able to build enough supply as needed in this marketplace.”

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Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon maintained the housing starts forecast is an underestimate, and said the province built 6,000 more units last year than were forecast in that year’s budget.

“Consistently, over the last five years we have greatly surpassed the projected numbers in the budget, and I suspect we’re going to be doing the same thing again this year,” he said.

“We’re starting to see many of those units opening now which I am excited about. It takes five years to build housing, unfortunately that’s too long, but we’ve got to change that as well.”


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Falcon, however, was unconvinced, accusing the government of having a sketchy grasp on what’s actually happening in the housing market.

“His comment was those numbers don’t reflect reality. What?” Falcon told reporters at his Thursday media availability.

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“Well what the heck is being reflected then? That has got to be worrisome and should be worrisome to British Columbians.”

The latest budget has earmarked $4.2 billion for a “refreshed” housing plan over the next three years, more than $1 billion of it this year.

Nearly half of this year’s spend is being targeted at building new units through Building BC, and acquiring land near transit routes for future construction.

But details of that plan remain vague, with the province pledging to unveil specifics in the coming months.


Highlights from B.C. budget 2023


One item it’s expected to include is a $91-million incentive program offering rebates to homeowners who want to build secondary rental suites.

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“That way is a good step forward, however there are a lot of details still to be decided on, so we don’t know how the money is going to be allocated,” Moore said.

“But certainly any time you take steps to increase the housing stock, the housing supply, to deal with what we call suppressed households is a good thing.”

That program could still face barriers at the municipal level, where a number of jurisdictions still ban secondary suites.

It remains unclear if legislation to remove that sticking point will also be included in the province’s housing plan.

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