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B.C. government documents reveal all 47 municipalities on housing 'naughty list'

The expanded list includes fast-growing large cities like Burnaby, Surrey and Langford, and smaller communities like White Rock, Pitt Meadows and North Cowichan
Residential construction on Montreal Street in James Bay in Victoria on May 15, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

While B.C.’s housing minister last week announced the first 10 municipalities that must meet future housing targets, a government order-in-council reveals all 47 municipalities that will likely have to ramp up their housing production, including Langford and North Cowichan.

Municipalities on what some have called “the naughty list” will have to approve a mix of housing, including townhomes, multi-family buildings, condos and below-market housing.

The expanded list of municipalities includes a mix of fast-growing large cities like Langford, Burnaby and Surrey, and smaller communities like Sidney, Ladysmith and Duncan.

The initial list of 10 included Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.

The Housing Ministry said in a statement that the order-in-council includes 47 municipalities in “areas of the province with the greatest housing need and highest projected growth where targets may be set.”

A ministry spokesperson said by email Sunday that municipalities were included in the order-in-council for the sake of expediency, “to not have to amend the regulation every time a new cohort is selected.”

While they include areas with the highest need and projected growth, it’s not a guarantee that targets will be set for each of them, the spokesperson said.

The housing targets will be set later this summer and municipalities will have six months to show progress.

Municipalities were selected using a weighted index based on factors that include urgency of housing need, projected population growth, land availability and housing affordability.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said during last week’s announcement that 10 more municipalities will be selected and notified later this year. It’s unclear which of the municipalities on the order-in-council list will be next.

Tom Davidoff, executive director of UBC Sauder School of Business’s Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, who helped develop the metrics used to select the municipalities, said he was surprised to see Whistler not included on the list, given the complaints among seasonal workers and those in the hospitality industry that it’s nearly impossible to find housing.

“It’s pretty clear that we’re looking at the areas that everybody knows have serious housing challenges,” Davidoff said. “The list seems to obviously be pretty light on small municipalities in the Interior, for example, or the northern parts of Vancouver Island.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said he is skeptical the targets will increase housing supply and affordability.

“It’s a worthy goal, ensuring that people have housing. I’m not sure that setting targets per se will make it work,” Krog said. “If the government isn’t building [housing] and the private sector slows down, how are you supposed to meet housing targets?”

Krog said he’s pleased Nanaimo wasn’t in the “top 10 bad list, because, candidly, we’re processing enormous numbers of building permits and approvals already. We don’t need a list or an incentive.”

BC United housing critic Karin Kirkpatrick said the B.C. NDP government hasn’t been transparent about how it selected the first 10 municipalities.

“It’s hard to understand how they’re actually scoring all these different things,” said Kirkpatrick, the MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano. “We need to understand how they’re calculating [housing need] in terms of homelessness and the need for social housing. It lacks clarity.”

If communities don’t meet the targets within six months, the province says it will appoint an independent adviser to help them make progress. If that doesn’t work, the province says it could rezone entire neighbourhoods to create more density.

Krog says he’d rather see incentives that “sticks.”

“A stick really isn’t the most useful approach,” he said. “A carrot would be better.”

When Premier David Eby first announced the housing targets through the Housing Supply Act, he promised that communities that build the required housing will be rewarded with cash for amenities such as bike lanes, recreation centres and infrastructure to support growing populations.

Kahlon said Thursday that communities that meet the targets will be “first in line” for federal funding through the $4-billion housing accelerator fund. He also noted that all B.C. municipalities received no-strings-attached cash this spring through the $1-billion growing communities fund.

The expanded list might answer questions from housing analysts about why the first 10 municipalities included small municipalities like Oak Bay and West Vancouver — with populations of 18,000 and 44,000, respectively — that have little capacity to add to the province’s overall housing stock.

Jamie Squires, president of Fifth Avenue Real Estate Marketing, said she’s encouraged that the full list of municipalities includes a balance of housing “producers and non-producers.”

Squires said it makes sense to focus on some of the larger municipalities that are already moving ahead with higher-density projects, since a boost in housing starts in their communities would make a difference in the province’s overall housing supply compared to smaller municipalities.

That doesn’t mean smaller municipalities are off the hook, she said.

“Even some of the smaller [municipalities], they have land and can [build housing]. They’re just slow to do it,” Squires said. In comparison, larger municipalities like Vancouver have little available land and are looking to add density to infill sites.

The housing targets through the Housing Supply Act are one of several legislative tools Eby is using to override municipalities and neighbourhood groups opposed to density in order to get new housing built.

In April, Eby and Kahlon announced that the province will overhaul municipal zoning rules to allow for more so-called “missing-middle” housing, such as townhomes and multiplex homes on single-family lots. Effective this fall, the province will also introduce a flipping tax and legalize all secondary suites.

Housing targets list

Here are all the municipalities mentioned in the order-in-council, listed alphabetically:

• Abbotsford*

• Anmore (village)

• Belcarra (village)

• Burnaby

• Central Saanich (district)

• Chilliwack

• Colwood

• Coquitlam

• Delta*

• Duncan

• Esquimalt (township)

• Highlands (district)

• Kamloops*

• Kelowna

• Ladysmith (town)

• Lake Cowichan (town)

• Langford

• Lantzville (district)

• Langley

• Langley (township)

• Lions Bay (village)

• Maple Ridge

• Metchosin (district)

• Mission

• Nanaimo

• New Westminster

• North Cowichan (district)

• North Saanich (district)

• North Vancouver*

• North Vancouver (district)

• Oak Bay (district)*

• Pitt Meadows

• Port Coquitlam

• Port Moody*

• Prince George

• Richmond

• Saanich (district)*

• Sidney (town)

• Sooke (district)

• Squamish (district)

• Surrey

• Vancouver*

• Victoria*

• View Royal (town)

• West Kelowna

• West Vancouver (district municipality)*

• White Rock*

*Previously announced