As part of its continuing effort to address the housing shortage, the British Columbia government (Province) recently introduced Bill 43 – 2022: Housing Supply Act (Housing Supply Act) and Bill 44 – 2022: Building and Strata Statutes Amendment Act, 2022 (Strata Amendment Act). The Housing Supply Act aims to increase the pace of housing development by allowing the Province to set housing targets for municipalities that have the highest demand and projected growth. The Strata Amendment Act will amend the Strata Property Act to prevent strata corporations from restricting rentals or imposing certain age requirements.
Both bills received royal assent on November 24, 2022. The Housing Supply Act is expected to come into force by regulation in mid-2023, and the Strata Amendment Act is effective immediately.
HOUSING SUPPLY ACT
The Housing Supply Act will be administered by the newly created Ministry of Housing. The Province is expected to initially establish targets for eight to 10 municipalities across B.C. These targets will be based on various information and data about housing availability, and the Province will consult with the municipality and monitor progress toward meeting the housing target. Where a municipality fails to meet the housing target, the Province can either require the municipality to take certain actions to meet the housing target or do so on behalf of the municipality. Indigenous lands are expressly exempted from the Housing Supply Act.
Housing Target Orders
The Housing Supply Act will allow the Province to establish housing targets for municipalities, and these targets may include the availability and affordability of housing. Any housing-target order must include a reporting period, performance indicators and timelines to assess progress.
In establishing a housing target, the Province must consider current and previous “housing needs reports” (required under the Local Government Act or the Vancouver Charter, as applicable); official community or development plans and regional growth strategies; information related to the demand and supply of housing, such as projected population, household income, economic sectors and housing availability (including where such information is provided by the municipality, as may be required by the Province); current or anticipated investments in transportation; any report made by an advisor; and any other relevant or prescribed information.
The Province will consult with and allow the municipality to provide feedback on any proposed housing target order before it is made. This process will be set out in further detail in the regulations, along with other requirements related to such consultation.
Housing Target Progress Reports
A municipality that is the subject of a housing target order must prepare a housing target progress report (Report) at each reporting period specified in the housing target order. It must also state its actions and progress towards meeting the housing target. If the housing target has not been met, the Report must state the actions the municipality intends to take over the following two-year period to meet the housing target. The municipality must submit the Report to the Province, and both the municipality and the Province must publish the Report on an authorized internet site.
If the Province determines that the municipality has failed to meet or make sufficient progress toward meeting the housing target, it can appoint an independent advisor and/or issue a directive. Before exercising these powers, the Province must consult with the municipality, including providing the municipality with an opportunity to comment on the proposed action, and must consider any previously available or new information relevant to the housing-target order.
If an advisor is appointed, it will review the actions taken and progress made by the municipality toward meeting the housing target order, the municipality’s intended actions, and its policies, practices and processes with respect to housing development. The advisor can enter municipal offices to inspect records, and municipal employees must provide reasonable assistance and any requested information or records. The advisor must submit a report to the Province with any recommended actions that the municipality could take to meet the housing target, compliance powers the Province could exercise, new or revised housing targets, or changes to the methodology used in establishing the housing target order.
The Province may also issue a directive requiring the municipality to enact or amend a bylaw or issue or refuse to issue a permit. The Province must be satisfied that issuing the directive is more beneficial than not issuing the directive, that there is no less onerous option to cause the municipality to meet the housing target and that issuing the directive is in the public interest. The municipality must then report to the Province the actions taken to comply with the directive. If the municipality fails to comply with the directive, the Province can enact or amend the bylaw or issue or refuse to issue the permit, and upon such order, the municipality is deemed to have enacted or amended the bylaw or issued or refused to issue the permit. The Province can also limit the municipality’s ability to reverse the effects of the order — for example, by amending or repealing the enacted or amended bylaw — for up to two years.
The Province must provide any directive or order to the municipality, and both the municipality and the Province must publish the directive or order on an authorized internet site.
STRATA AMENDMENT ACT
Changes to the Strata Property Act will affect many strata communities in B.C. by immediately preventing enforcement of certain bylaws restricting rentals and age.
The Strata Amendment Act has repealed and amended several sections of the Strata Property Act that allowed strata corporations to restrict or prohibit the rental of strata lots. The strata corporation will not be permitted to “screen tenants, establish screening criteria, require the approval of tenants, require the insertion of terms in tenancy agreements or otherwise restrict the rental of a strata lot.” Strata corporations will still be able to pass bylaws restricting vacation or other short-term accommodations.
Another significant change prohibits any strata corporation from passing bylaws that impose age restrictions. To protect seniors’ communities, the strata corporation may require residents be at least 55 years of age, but this type of bylaw will not apply to a resident who is not currently violating any age-related bylaw or a caregiver of a resident where both reside in the same strata lot.
Many see this proposed legislation as an important step in responding to urgent housing-affordability challenges in B.C. It is hoped that collaboration between the Province and municipalities will increase the future housing stock by accelerating development approvals and that removing rental and age restrictions in strata communities will bring more rentals in the short term. As the government continues its long-fought battle to address housing affordability, the effectiveness of this new round of legislative action remains to be seen.
For more information, please contact:
Tony Magre +1-604-631-4153
Alysha Visram +1-604-631-4267
Kaitlyn Sawyer +1-604-631-4263
or any other member of our Commercial Real Estate group.
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