The Government of British Columbia announced the launch of BC Builds, a new initiative that leverages government, community and non-profit owned and underused land with $2 billion in low-cost financing and a commitment of $950 million for the overall program.

“Anyone looking for a place to live knows how hard it is – even if you make a decent salary there are not enough rental homes people can afford,” said Premier David Eby. “The private sector alone has not been able to deliver the homes middle-class people in B.C. need. That’s why we’re taking action through BC Builds to deliver lower-cost middle-income homes, faster, so the people who keep our communities working – like teachers, nurses, and construction workers – can find homes they can afford in the communities they love.”

Inflation, high interest rates, and the cost of land and construction have driven up costs and rent in B.C. and across the country, and not enough middle-income housing is being built as a result. Too many homes are out of reach for middle-income earners and people are spending more than half of their household income on housing, pushing people out of communities, and making labour shortages worse.

Supported by grant funding and financing from the B.C. government, through BC Housing, BC Builds is designed to deliver through challenging market conditions to bring down building costs, get more projects started, and build more homes that fit into middle-income budgets. The program will focus on rental housing first with rents reflecting local conditions and determined on a community-by-community basis. This means more households will find below-market rent and spend less than 30% of their income on rent.

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“Too many middle-class families are struggling to find a place to live that they can afford, and that’s holding people and our economy back,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “BC Builds is designed to meet this moment, overcome challenging market conditions, and deliver lower-cost rental homes for the people who deliver the services we rely on, and drive our economy forward – so they can build good lives here and thrive.”

BC Builds works in partnership with non-profits, local governments, First Nations and the development sector to identify available underused land, provide financing and funding, and deliver projects that create more homes and help bring costs more in line with what middle-income households earn.

BC Builds details include:

  • At least 20% of all BC Builds homes will have rents that are at least 20% below market rate for projects in partnership with non-profits and First Nations.
  • All BC Builds units have a target of middle-income households spending no more than approximately 30% of their income on rent.
  • The rents for BC Builds will not exceed market rent for that community, and will in many cases be below.
  • All households living in BC Builds homes are income tested at move-in.
  • The income levels vary by community, so homes are within reach for that community’s middle-income households.
  • BC Builds projects aim to deliver more two-, three- and four-bedroom homes, as many as possible with below-market rents.
  • Projects owned and operated by non-profit providers mean rents will remain low over time, creating more affordability.
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BC Builds uses lower government borrowing rates to offer lower-cost financing and grants to bring down construction costs. The program also works with municipalities, landowners, residential builders and housing operators to move projects from concept to construction within 12 to 18 months, compared to the current of average of three to five years. This will be accomplished by streamlining municipal development processes and by working with landowners, municipalities and residential builders to remove barriers.

BC Builds is designed to grow. In addition to the sites detailed below, thousands of BC Builds homes will continue to move at an expedited pace as projects are approved over the next three years, with some estimated to be under construction as early as summer 2024. More than 20 initial BC Builds sites have been identified on government, First Nations, non-profit and community-owned land. BC Builds is seeking new partners and landowners who want to build housing on underused land or above new community buildings.

The following three projects are examples of BC Builds:

  • A site owned by the City of North Vancouver, located at 225 East Second St., being developed by non-profit Catalyst, has development approvals for the following:
    • An 18-storey mass timber building that will include 180 units affordable for middle-income households in North Vancouver.
    • A minimum of 20% of units must rent at 20% below market, with a goal of delivering even more units at below-market rates.
    • The building will be located with the North Shore Neighbourhood House, which provides an extensive range of community services, including 37 child care spaces, child-development support programming for 250 children experiencing development delays, food programs, wellness and recreation activities, and youth and seniors’ programs.
    • The project is located beside a new BC Housing project that will deliver 89 affordable homes, set to open in late 2025.
  • A site owned by Cowichan Tribes, located at 222 Cowichan Way in Duncan on reserve land is being developed by Khowutzun Development LLP. It has development approvals for the following:
    • A four-to-six-storey wood-frame building, which will include 199 units for middle-income people and families living in the Cowichan Valley.
    • A minimum of 20% of units must rent at 20% below market, with a goal of delivering even more units at below-market rates.
    • New governance headquarters for the Cowichan Tribes.
    • Space for Indigenous businesses.
  • A site owned by the Town of Gibsons, located at 571 Shaw Rd., is being developed by non-profit New Commons and will be operated by the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society. It has development approvals for the following:
    • A four-storey wood-frame building, which will contain 33 homes ranging from studios to three-bedroom homes.
    • A minimum of 20% of units must rent at 20% below market, with a goal of delivering more units at below-market rates.
    • The building will also include an early child care centre with 24 child care spaces, encompassing a pre-school daycare and before-and-after school care for eight children.
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Featured image: The Province has launched BC Builds to lower construction costs, speed up timelines, and deliver more homes that middle-income people who live and work in B.C. can afford. (Government of B.C.)

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