B.C. announces housing, rural firefighting investments at UBCM meeting

Premier David Eby said his government is “not just listening, but taking action,” during his keynote speech to leaders at the annual Union of BC Municipalities meeting Friday.

During the speech, Eby announced separate measures aimed at helping urban and rural municipalities meet their specific needs.

For urban centres, the premier announced $61 million worth of funding to help municipalities meet provincial housing density targets.

“(The funding will) support communities, give people a chance to find a place they can rent, a place they can actually potentially get into the market,” he said.

Eby added he wants communities to be responsive to the province’s questions about the funding, so it can develop “true partnerships.”

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Eby told UBCM members he’s heard concerns that many communities don’t have the required staff to speed up issuing permits for homes and suites.

He says the money will be distributed over three years due to speed-related stress.

Rural communities, meanwhile, will be getting more funding for firefighting assistance. Eby announced a $4.75 million investment into smaller municipalities aimed at training volunteer firefighters — something that’s been a point of contention during this wildfire season.

“One of the key stories that came out of the Salmon Arm, Shuswap area, is that there was a huge desire for people who were experienced in firefighting, experienced in the bush, wanting to help the wildfire service, wanting to help out their volunteer firefighting efforts across the province,” Eby said.

“We want to support that effort. We want to increase both the ability of volunteers to work, and the capacity for volunteers to work.”

The funding for rural communities will also go toward educational programs aimed at teaching people how to prevent wildfires.

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