NDP slow to meet affordable housing targets, report says

B.C.’s New Democrat government is slow to meet its targets to build more affordable housing and rental units, according to a new report.

Two years into the NDP’s mandate, an update from B.C. Housing shows almost half of 13,182 affordable housing units — earmarked for general affordability, rental, homelessness, Indigenous housing and women’s transition support — are labelled in progress because they don’t have the required funding or commitments to proceed.

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Only 71 rental housing units have been completed by B.C. Housing out of a promised 1,598, according to the first quarter 2019-20 report. Delays are common, with 59 per cent of projects suffering minor or major delays.

The figures were contained in an internal B.C. Housing report that is updated quarterly. The Opposition Liberals obtained a copy through freedom of information and raised it in question period at the legislature last week.

The questions put Housing Minister Selina Robinson on the defensive.

“It’s quite clear that the minister doesn’t have a handle on this file,” said Liberal critic Jane Thornthwaite. “After two years of this government, the NDP has built only 71 [rental] units in the entire province. At this rate, it’s going to take 100 years for you to fulfil your campaign promises.”

Robinson attacked the previous government’s record of supportive housing, saying the Liberals lack the credibility required to question her progress.

“Well, clearly, they don’t understand how long it takes to build housing, because they didn’t do it,” she said.

The NDP promised in the 2017 provincial election to build 114,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years.

The 2018 provincial budget earmarked $6.2 billion over that time to support 33,700 units, and called for partnerships with private sector developers, other levels of government, non-profits and faith-based organizations to make up the rest.

B.C. Housing’s portion of the larger target is 28,700 units, of which 22 per cent are currently funded, in development or completed. That includes modular housing for the homeless.

Robinson’s housing ministry said in a statement that the B.C. Housing report was a snapshot in time as of June. A second-quarter report is expected soon.

“I’m very proud of the work that we have done, because we have over 22,000 units that have actually been initiated,” Robinson told the legislature on Thursday. “They are in progress.”

Robinson’s figures factored in 8,000 additional student housing units at post-secondary institutions and more than 2,000 Greater Victoria units partly funded by the federal government. More than half the total housing units are still in the initial development and approval phases.

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