B.C.’s premier was at the State of the Island Economic Summit today to talk about the links between housing and the economy and a range of other topics.
Premier David Eby gave a speech and participated in a question-and-answer session on Thursday, Oct. 26, on the second day of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s convention at Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
The premier discussed highways, ferries, the drug-poisoning crisis, crime and more, but one recurring theme was housing. Eby said 250,000 people moved to British Columbia over the past two years, and said 2023 is seeing record levels of migration to the province.
“Which is very good news, because we have about one million job openings expected over the next 10 years and we need people to come,” he said. “But we also need to respond to the pressures that that growth brings.”
Housing, he said, is an issue for so many sectors of the economy trying to recruit and retain workers in various parts of the province. Eby said his government has “all hands on deck on the housing issue,” working on initiatives like municipal housing targets and streamlined permitting, and most recently, new legislation limiting short-term rentals.
Eby said he’s not interested in “demonizing” the short-term rental sector, but he said whether someone is renting out one unit or dozens of units, the cumulative effect on the rental market is the same.
“This is just a reality when you have a vacancy rate of less than one per cent, when it’s a drag on the provincial economy … that people can’t find housing,” he said.
The notion of housing as a long-term investment rather than a place to live, he said, has “caused an entire generation of people in our province and across Canada to say, is there a future for me? … [Housing] is not a cost-free investment,” Eby said.
He said his government is interested in being part of building housing, and is buying up land around transit stations in urban centres for that purpose. The province is also involved in discussions with municipalities, school districts and health authorities about building workforce housing on top of civic and institutional facilities.
“The momentum behind this is very significant and I do think ultimately it will be quite transformative as we get back into the business of making sure that the middle class actually has a place to live,” the premier said.
“We think the government needs to be involved in the big challenges of our time and we need to be investing heavily in the growth that we’re seeing in this province and in the opportunity that we have here,” he said.