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B.C. welcomes promises of infrastructure dollars, but will ‘push’ for more

Ottawa’s announcement of $6 billion comes with strings attached
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Premier David Eby (far right) welcomes Ottawa’s pledge of $6 billion for housing infrastructure, but says B.C. should be among the first provinces to receive funding given that its record of building more housing. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Premier David Eby broadly welcomed federal pledges for a new housing infrastructure fund worth $6 billion, but also signaled that B.C. should be among the first provinces to receive support.

“The federal government says ‘we are going to tie that infrastructure funding to (housing),’” he said Tuesday, while announcing new measures to protect renters. “We are building the homes, so therefore, we should get the funding…if they (other provinces) don’t do this (build more housing), that money should be coming British Columbia instead of other places that refuse to take the necessary steps.”

Eby made these comments after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the construction and upgrading of housing infrastructure.

Of the $6 billion, $1 billion would flow to municipalities to for “urgent infrastructure needs” that will directly create more housing. Another $5 billion would be for agreements provinces and territories to support “long-term priorities.”

But the money would only be available under conditions. They include creating more ‘missing middle’ housing and requiring municipalities to increase density. Municipalities, which are under provincial jurisdiction, would also be required to freeze development cost charges for three years, if their populations exceed 300,000. Provinces and territories would also have to implement measures from the federal Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights and Renters’ Bill of Rights.

RELATED: Trudeau unveils $6B housing fund — with strings attached

“We think it is critically important to tie infrastructure funding to (a) clear commitment to building housing, to respond to the needs of the people of British Columbia,” Eby said. “The piece that is mission critical to me is that the federal government is really firm about this commitment to tie this to housing. We are taking the steps needed to build the housing that people need and deserve.”

Trudeau Tuesday also announced that Ottawa would top up the federal Housing Accelerator Fund, currently sitting at $4.4 billion, with an additional $400 million.

Eby said B.C. been pushing Ottawa for additional infrastructure funding on a range of issues.

“It has been frustrating and challenging,” he said. “We haven’t had infrastructure for so long. It’s a huge anxiety among municipalities and certainly in terms of our provincial budget where we’ve had to commit full funding projects like the Massey Tunnel project without any clear indication yet of federal support. So I’m relieved to see it.”

RELATED: New bill of rights helping renters unveiled by Trudeau in B.C.

Tuesday’s infrastructure funding announcement comes less than a week after Ottawa had announced measures to protect renters. The location of that announcement — Vancouver, the most expensive Canadian city for renters— as well as its substance could be read as Ottawa’s recognition of efforts by B.C. to create more housing.

But Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon also said last week that B.C. needs more financial help from Ottawa in areas such as Indigenous housing and affordable housing.

“Without those investments, we are not going to find a path forward,” he said.

But Kahlon also acknowledged a change in Ottawa’s approach.

“From when I became the minister of housing to now, I have gone from very frustrated to almost being hopeful that we are going to able to find a path forward and address this major generational challenge that we have ahead of us. I think the steps that (federal officials) have been taking as of late are more positive, but yet there is more that we need. We need to see more commitment to dollars for affordable housing, more dollars committed to supporting infrastructure, so we will continue to push them.”





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