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Premier Clark has 'new plan' to keep Metro Vancouver homes affordable

Smyth: Premier Clark has 'new plan' to keep Metro Vancouver homes affordable
 
Premier Christy Clark has been slammed for doing little about spiralling Metro Vancouver real estate prices that have put the dream of home ownership beyond the reach of non-millionaires.

But with prices up more than 40 per cent in the last year, Clark says she now has a new plan to deal with the situation.

“We're going to see prices go up and our government needs to take action,” Clark told a $500-a-plate Liberal party fundraiser this week.

She said the government has already imposed a new tax on homes over $3 million, eliminated the property-transfer tax on new homes under $750,000 and is building 2,000 new affordable-housing units.

More measures are coming, she said.

“In the coming weeks, you will see our plan to do everything that we can … to make sure the dream of home ownership remains in the reach of those in the middle class, especially in the Lower Mainland.”

This is a new tone from a government that has resisted intervention in the overheated market.

NDP housing critic David Eby is dubious.

“I don't know what's gotten into the premier's mind, other than the latest poll shows she's taking a kicking on this issue and if she wants to get
re-elected she better start pretending that she cares about it,” Eby told me Wednesday.

Why “pretending”? Because the government's moves so far have been “laughable,” the NDP critic said, including those 2,000 new affordable-housing units.

“That's over five years and that's for people with serious mental-health and addiction issues,” Eby said. “That's nothing to do with middle-class housing.”

He also thinks the governing Liberals are too beholden to the whims and wishes of big real estate companies and property tycoons who have donated more than $12 million to Liberal party coffers as they reap record profits.

“I have a hard time imagining she will do anything to distress this industry,” Eby said.

Clark said her plan will require co-operation with municipal governments. That likely means it will involve new measures and incentives for municipalities to fast-track approvals of new home construction.

That will not satisfy critics demanding an anti-speculation tax or controls on foreign property buyers. Anything less risks economic damage to the region because highly skilled workers won't move here, Eby argued.

“These talented folks can go anywhere and they choose to go to a place where they can actually afford to live with their family. Vancouver is increasingly not one of those places,” Eby said. “We have an economy that's really at a fork in the road — between an economy based on clean-tech and high-tech jobs in Metro Vancouver and one that's basically a resort community for the super-rich.”

This one is shaping up as a key election issue. Clark's next move will be interesting.

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