New West mayor pushes back against B.C. housing targets

After his city was added to the B.C. government’s housing targets list, New Westminster’s mayor is pushing back, saying his city is leading the region in getting new housing built. Monika Gul reports.

The Mayor of New Westminster is pushing back after being added to the provincial government’s housing targets list.

“I don’t need new orders to get housing built,” said Patrick Johnstone, Mayor of New Westminster. “This council is approving and doing its work.”

The Housing Supply Act, announced last year, allows the B.C. government to set housing targets for select municipalities. Initially, 10 communities were told they’d have to build a certain amount of housing over the next five years, but on Tuesday, 20 more were named — including New Westminster.

“I was surprised, I was shocked about it, I think it demonstrates the minister doesn’t really understand the work we’ve been doing at New Westminster and in the last decade to meet and exceed our housing targets,” Johnstone said.

Johnstone says from 2011 to 2021, 5,000 units of new housing were built in New West, adding the city currently has 6,000 units of housing sitting in the development permit or construction phase.

“New Westminster leads the region actually in getting new housing built, we lead the region in purpose built rentals, in transit-oriented development, and the kind of housing that this region needs,” Johnstone said.

The City of North Vancouver was also surprised it’s being given housing targets.

“In my previous conversations with the minister I have been very clear that the city’s growth cannot be scaled up as a result of ordering target. However, in the spirit of collaboration, we will continue to engage with the province on housing and infrastructure,” Mayor Linda Buchanan said.

B.C.’s Housing Minister says the targets are just about aligning the province and local governments so that everyone is on the same page.

“In the end, all of us, I hope, are trying to do the same thing, which is to ensure that we have housing for people in our communities, affordable housing for people in our communities,” Kahlon said.

“Some communities are not building enough housing, some communities are not building enough supportive housing or more affordable housing, and in some communities, it’s just a mix between not having enough two bedroom and three bedroom suites for people in their communities.”

But Johnstone says he’d like the province to take a more collaborative approach.

“I would love to sit down with the Minister of Housing and talk about what his responsibility is and what my responsibility is and I can show him how I’ve done my work and we can have an agreement over what we need to do to get the housing built,” he said.

Kahlon says his staff have been talking to staff at New Westminster and will continue to do so.

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