The North Coast candidates for the B.C. election answer three questions on housing.

The North Coast candidates for the B.C. election answer three questions on housing.

B.C. Election: Three hard questions — housing

As the election approaches, the Northern View is asking each of the provincial candidates three questions on a particular subject.

  • Apr. 24, 2017 10:00 a.m.

Should affordable housing be transferred to municipalities and be provincially funded?

Herb Pond, BC Liberal

It needs to be a partnership. Local and First Nations leaders have done a good job of advocating and facilitating projects with provincial help. More can be done with an engaged MLA.

Local leaders are best positioned to address local challenges. But I would advise them to be very cautious about taking on full responsibility for affordable housing. Over time, the financial burden could be offloaded to the local tax base.

If local leaders see challenges with the system, let’s fix it. And let’s partner with groups like Transition House on their men’s homelessness initiative. I know I can help.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

Definitely. Some things can’t be dealt with on a province wide basis with a general policy because of regional differences. Housing policy is a major issue in this election but the focus is almost entirely on the major cities (especially in Vancouver and Victoria).

While we also have accessibility issues in Prince Rupert our problem is not the same as the problem in the major cities that the city is full of brand new structures being flipped for one to two million dollars so efforts to block high-end speculation really won’t make any difference here.

Prince Rupert faces two big issues: a lot of older housing that often has not been kept up well, and prices that remain stubbornly high despite a long history of high unemployment rates. Prince Rupert is the only city in the province that faces this particular situation and therefore it makes sense to solve it at a municipal level.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

Housing has been failure of Christy Clark’s government that has hit those most in need the hardest. She took money that could have been used to create affordable housing throughout B.C. and made sure it found its way into the hands of her wealthy donors in the real estate sector. This brought on more suffering for those who are having a hard time with affording rent or buying a home.

The BC Liberal government is already trying to shed, download, offload provincial housing responsibilities with disastrous results. There are many examples right here in Prince Rupert.

We will invest in building 114,000 affordable housing units and will work in partnership with municipalities, First Nations and non-profit organizations to deliver the affordable housing people in the North Coast need. Local governments know best the needs of their communities, they just need a supportive partner in the provincial government that is what they will get with an NDP government.

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How do you intend to provide housing for the growing demographic of seniors in this city?

Herb Pond, BC Liberal

Seniors need more options. They should choose what best meets their needs. Some prefer downtown living with services nearby, while others prefer a house and yard. Some have decent incomes. Others do not.

The province recently provided funding for 86 new affordable housing units. Metlakatla will soon convert their King Edward property to a seniors’ facility open to everyone. That’s all good, but I agree with mayor and council that we can do more.

I’ll work with city councils, First Nations, and those community groups already exploring solutions. As MLA I will make sure that the senior governments pay attention and respond to the priorities of local leaders.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

We need to reinvest in public housing. We have had a “business-first” (and too often a “business-only”) government over the past 16 years who has an ideological belief that having a completely free market would solve every social issue.

The current government’s theory is that if seniors need housing then business will provide it and people will be motivated to stockpile enough personal money to purchase private housing along with any care needs they have.

This is flawed logic, but it is handy for the current government in that it allows it to wash its hands of its responsibilities. The government can then fulfill it’s promises of reducing taxes for large energy corporations and balance those fiscal losses by no longer investing in public housing. As a result, we have seen a big decline in support for public housing in general under the Liberals with a decline in the quality of housing that exists and little investment in new housing for a changing (and aging) population.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

I spent over ten years working with seniors before moving to Prince Rupert. I have the greatest respect for our elders and have always made time to talk with them as the MLA.

The Christy Clark Liberals have disrespected our seniors but the BC NDP is focused on making their lives more affordable. An NDP government would broaden the program that provides low-income seniors financial support for housing. That, in addition to our $400 renters rebate would help make rent more affordable for seniors in need.

As our communities age, we need a government that will plan for our future housing needs. We are committed to developing solutions today for the needs of our aging population.

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In the wake of provincial action on hot housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto, how should the province address high rental rates and ’renovictions’?

Herb Pond, BC Liberal

Last night I knocked on the door of a young mom who is paying too much rent and struggling to support her growing family. She traditionally votes NDP, but she’s considering a change. “Bring us better jobs! Then I can buy my own house and fire my landlord.”

She expects us to set the bar higher.

So, let’s close loopholes in the system, crack down on landlords who violate existing rules and let’s build and maintain more quality affordable housing.

But the real opportunity over the next four years is to regrow healthy communities around high paying jobs that allow our young people to stay, and raise their families in the security of their own homes. That’s why young families are returning. That’s why I’m running.

Hondo Arendt, Green Party

The Green Party has a policy of adjusting the property transfer tax to make it more expensive to flip high-end properties and make it easier for people to buy less expensive properties. We also would put more controls in place on landlords to help regulate unwarranted high rents and renovictions.

On a separate note I would like to take this opportunity to say if you are still reading and have gotten as far as the third answer of the “third party” candidate then I suspect you are either a Green Party supporter or at least undecided.

To you I would like to say that it has been a long journey and we are finally seeing the results of years of effort and years of people supporting the party even though we “never win.” We elected our first MLA in 2013 and it looks like we will elect many more in this election. So a special thanks to all those who have voted with their hearts and brought us to this point.

Jennifer Rice, NDP

Few people in the housing market have been treated more unfairly by Christy Clark and her BC Liberals than renters. From impossible-to-find rental housing, to landlords taking advantage of loopholes to increase rents, to sudden renovictions and cuts to the tenancy branch that mean complaints are harder to follow up on renters have suffered through it all.

Christy Clark and the BC Liberals created the loopholes that allow landlords to easily evict tenants and increase rents dramatically.

The BCNDP has repeatedly called for the BC Liberals to close these loopholes that have enriched many of Christy Clark’s donors. An NDP government would immediately close those loopholes and reverse the cuts that were made to the Residential Tenancies Branch so that tenants and landlords have a fair and timely mechanism for dispute resolution.