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Kahlon, Fraser headline UBCM summit tackling province’s housing crunch

UBCM summit takes aim at key issues as B.C. grapples with housing crisis and rapid population growth
Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon at last year’s Union of BC Municipalities housing summit in Vancouver.

Population growth, new housing legislation and affordability will be top of mind for local governments and industry experts this week.

Stakeholders are descending upon Vancouver on Tuesday for the Union of the BC Municipalities (UBCM) 2024 housing summit.

This year’s event is unique as it will be the first time “in a while” that all three levels of government will be in the same room, according to UBCM president and City of Coquitlam Coun. Trish Mandewo.

Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser and B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon are set to deliver individual addresses at the summit. 

“Up until now, it has been the federal, provincial and then local governments doing their own thing. With a summit like this, we are saying let's get into one room and let's see how we can work together,” said Mandewo.

The summit also includes an overview of the multibillion-dollar BC Builds project.

The provincial initiative aims to create affordable housing on government-owned land and is geared towards what the province describes as middle-income households.

Kahlon said in mid-January that the final details of the project would be unveiled in the “very, very near future,” but he did not offer an exact date. 

Much of the week’s UBCM programming is aimed at helping municipalities navigate housing legislation introduced this past November.

The new housing legislation aims to address concerns over shelter spaces, development fees, taxes and levies, as well as building density on single-family lots and around transit stations.

Mandewo said that some municipalities are already “ahead of the game” and implementing the new legislation, while other communities are in their “infancy.”

“We're hoping that by having that peer-to-peer sharing, that our local governments will be able to learn from one another. Since the province introduced the sweeping legislation, there's need for us to gather and to take stock of the current challenges,” Mandewo said.

Population growth is another main focus of the summit, with one session dedicated to how municipalities plan to build for the next one million residents, as well as a data-focused panel discussion on how to accommodate growth.

B.C.’s population grew by three per cent from July 2022 to July 2023, marking the highest annual increase since 1974, according to the B.C. government. 

The province’s population is expected to reach 7.9 million by 2046, up 44 per cent compared to 5.5 million in 2023.

“All that is coupled with the housing targets that have been set, local governments not having the framework to really support the growth or at least don't have the answers of how that is going to unfold. That's why it's important for us to be talking to the province and to the federal government, so that we can talk about those impacts that local governments are going to feel,” said Mandewo.

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