How are British Columbians affected by the federal budget’s housing focus?

The 2024 federal budget included a number of initiatives to make housing more affordable. Monika Gul takes a closer look at how the funding announcements will impact British Columbians.

British Columbians pay some of the highest housing prices in the country. So what does a heavy focus on housing in the latest federal budget mean for them?

Marc Lee, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ B.C. branch, says it’s generally a good sign.

Among the new measures announced Tuesday, was a plan to take vacant public land, such as Canada Post and National Defence properties — including those in B.C. — and lease them to builders to construct more affordable homes.

“Not that all of them are necessarily in a good location to become housing, but certainly a lot of those could be,” Lee said.

In total, the budget promises $8.5 billion in new spending on housing over the next five years. Most of the measures in the budget were announced leading up to Tuesday, including a $400 million top-up to the Housing Accelerator Fund, which one housing expert says has encouraged cities to zone up residential areas.

“So, that means more carrots and sticks to encourage that pro-social behaviour of accepting more housing by municipalities,” said Tom Davidoff, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Other previously announced measures include funding of more programs designed to spur the construction of new homes and rentals.

Some of the initiatives the feds are rolling out bear a resemblance to ones introduced by the BC NDP government at the provincial level, which Premier David Eby took note of.

“I really welcome the federal government coming to the table in a significant way on housing,” Eby said. “I will say, frankly, that it’s overdue. But it’s welcome.”

But will it all work? Davidoff says on the bright side, housing will likely be more affordable than it would have been without these measures. However, he cites the pace of immigration and the difficulty of scaling up support as reasons to be cautiously optimistic.

“Housing affordability will deteriorate, it just won’t get as worse as it would have without these interventions,” he said.

The feds are hoping to create nearly four million new homes by 2031 — which Lee says is quite a “stretch.”

“A lot of the effort is coming in the future. Only about a billion dollars of the news measures kick in this year,” he said.

On the streets of Vancouver, one lifetime resident tells CityNews she hopes the federal government’s focus on affordable housing will translate into tangible results for her children.

“I have children who I hope are going to move back to Vancouver. They are away at university and I worry about it because, of course, I want my children to come home, but getting into the market and buying a home is pretty impossible these days.”

With files from Mike Lloyd

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