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Reviewing Recent Changes in BC's Housing Plan

Reviewing Recent Changes in British Columbia's Housing Plan

In the last couple months there have been some big announcements from the provincial Government regarding initiatives under the 'Homes for People' plan, aiming to enhance housing affordability and increase density. Whether you're a homeowner, renter, or property investor, these updates are to keep you ahead of the curve and make sure you plan accordingly so you don’t get an unnecessary tax bill or to allow you more time to plan to maximize the true potential for your homes value. This week we are looking at the top 4 initiatives that vary from amendments to bylaws supporting small-scale, multi-unit housing developments like townhomes, triplexes, and laneway homes. Additionally, the introduction of short-term rental legislation, measures to fast-track housing near transit hubs, and enhancing local government capacity for quicker housing development approvals mark significant strides in the housing sector. Notably, a new tax credit for renters and a cap on annual rent increases to 3.5% in 2024 were also announced.

1. Speculation Tax Expansion: Last week the B.C. government expanded the speculation and vacancy tax to 13 new municipalities as a strategic move to combat real estate speculation and transform empty units into homes. This significant amendment is a cornerstone of the 'Homes for People' plan, directed at bolstering affordable housing options. Property owners in these designated areas must prepare for their first declarations in January 2025, reflecting their property usage in 2024. Click here for the provinces media release. Speculation tax will now be applicable in

  • Vernon, Coldstream;

  • Penticton, Summerland;

  • Lake Country, Peachland;

  • Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland;

  • Parksville, Qualicum Beach;

  • Salmon Arm; and

  • Kamloops

2. New Zonings On November 2nd, a groundbreaking policy now allows up to six homes on single-family lots in municipalities with over 5,000 residents. This initiative aims to foster low-rise, multi-family residential developments and represents a key aspect of gentle densification in single-family neighborhoods. Municipalities must align their zoning bylaws with these new standards by June 30, 2024. Click here for the media release In most areas within municipalities of more than 5,000 people, these changes will also require bylaws to allow for:

  • three to four units permitted on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use, depending on lot size;

  • six units permitted on larger lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use and close to transit stops with frequent service.

3. Secondary Suites: The government is championing the construction of more secondary suites for rent. A notable pilot incentive program, set to launch in early spring 2024, offers homeowners up to $40,000 in forgivable loans to develop new secondary suites or accessory dwelling units. The program targets suites that will be rented below market rates, addressing affordability. Additionally, the 'Home Suite Home' guide has been introduced to assist homeowners in this venture. Click here to review BC Housings Fact sheet

4. Short-term Rental Restrictions: In an effort to redirect short-term rentals towards long-term housing solutions, new legislation mandates that short-term rentals in B.C. be offered only in the principal residence of a host in municipalities with a population exceeding 10,000. On October 16th, they announced the legislation which includes increased fines for rule violations and requires online rental platforms to cooperate with provincial enforcement efforts. Having a phased approach here is a breakdown of the changes but the one with the biggest impact is Phase 2 which is set to come in effect May 1st,2024. Click here for the media release.

Phase 1 – Increasing fines (immediately after the legislation is passed and receives royal assent)

  • Fines

    • Forthcoming regulations are intended to increase fines under the municipal ticketing information (MTI) system in the Community Charter and Vancouver Charter By-law Enforcement Ticket Regulations from $1,000 to $3,000 per infraction, per day.

    • Increase the maximum fine regional districts can set for prosecutions of bylaw offences to $50,000 (consistent with the maximum fine for municipalities under the Community Charter).

  • Regional districts

    • Amend the Local Government Act to provide regional districts with the authority to create businesses license's for short-term rentals.

Phase 2 – Releasing short-term rental units to long-term use (May 1, 2024)

  • Enacting the principal residence requirement

    • Require short-term rentals to be provided in the principal residence of a host only, plus one secondary suite or laneway home/garden suite on the property in communities with a population over 10,000 people.

  • Removing legal non-conforming use clause

    • Remove legacy protections of non-conforming use of property in the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter so they do not apply to short-term rentals.

Phase 3 – Introducing platform accountability measures (summer 2024)

  • Requiring that short-term rental platforms include businesses licence numbers on listings where they are used by a local government, and to remove listings without them quickly to ensure local rules are being followed.

  • Requiring platforms to provide certain information about listings to the Province on a regular basis and allow the Province to share information with local governments to support bylaw enforcement.

Phase 4 – Creating provincial oversight (late 2024)

  • Creating a registry and requiring all short-term rental hosts to register their short-term rental properties, and require platforms to register their business operations with the Province.

What in the world can we do for you? Let us know. Mark and Maddie


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