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The Honourable Carol James, Minister of Finance, introduced a balanced budget Tuesday that focused on addressing the housing crisis and improving childcare in BC.  The budget projects surpluses over the next three years. The Province introduced a comprehensive 30-point plan for housing affordability which reflects numerous recommendations within UBCM’s housing report, A Home For Everyone: A Housing Strategy for British Columbians. UBCM’s report advocated for measures to address foreign and domestic speculation, increase the supply of affordable rental housing, tackle homeless, and collaboration amongst all levels of government.

The 30-point plan includes:

  • A new speculation tax for 2018 that targets foreign and domestic speculators who do not pay income tax in BC. It will apply to Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital and Nanaimo regional districts, along with Kelowna and West Kelowna.
  • The new speculation tax rate will be 0.5% of taxable assessed value for 2018 and 2% thereafter. It will capture satellite families and generally exempt primary residences and long-term rentals.
  • Increasing the foreign buyer’s tax from 15% to 20% and extending it to include the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo and Central Okanagan Regional Districts as of February 21, 2018.
  • Increasing the property transfer tax on residential properties over $3 million from 3% to 5% effective February 21, 2018.
  • Increasing the school tax on homes assessed over $3 million beginning in 2019.
  • Allowing online accommodation providers to apply provincial sales tax and municipal and regional district sales tax.  
  • Allowing municipalities, regional districts and eligible entities, such as tourism-focussed non-profits, to use revenues from the PST and MRDT to fund affordable housing initiatives.
  • Building a database for pre-sale condo assignments and require the collection of new information to stop tax evasion in condo pre-sales assignment.
  • Taking action to end hidden ownership, by requiring new information on PPT tax forms and including a new public beneficial ownership registry.
  • Strengthening provincial auditing and enforcement powers, and expanding information collection and information sharing with the CRA to prevent tax evasion.
  • Moving to close property tax loopholes in the Agricultural Land Reserve to ensure agricultural land is used for farming.
  • Creating a permanent multi-agency working group on tax evasion, money laundering and housing.
  • Investing $6 billion over 10 years in homes and housing supports including $1.6 billion over three years with:
  • $453 million to support 19,000 units of affordable housing
  • $308 million for critical maintenance and energy performance upgrades to existing social housing
  • $450 million to help finance 5000 new student housing beds at public post secondary institutions
  • $178 million for 2500 supportive housing units for the homeless
  • $158 million for 1750 units for indigenous peoples
  • $141 million for 1500 units for women and children fleeing abuse
  • Enhancing rental assistance programs with an increase to the Shelter for Elderly Renters (SAFE) benefit and the Rental Assistance Program for low-income working.
  • Creating a ‘Housing Hub’ in BC Housing to engage governments, non-profits the private sector in creating housing solutions. The new Housing Hub will be funded through re-allocated funds following a wind down of the BC Home Owner Mortgage and Equity Partnership Program.
  • Provincial mirroring of property tax exemptions under municipal revitalization agreements for qualifying purpose built rentals.
  • Committing $5 million over 3 years to help fund need assessments for local governments to help them build capacity to build and retain affordable housing.
  • Empower local governments by developing new tools such as rental zoning to accelerate the construction of new homes.

Other measures of interest to local governments include

Child care:

  • Invest $1 billion in child care which includes:
  • A new affordable child care benefit that will provide support of up to $1250 per child for families making less than $45,000 per year. This benefit will support an estimated 86,000 families
  • A new child care fee reduction program that will provide licensed care providers up to $350 a month per space each month. This benefit 50,000 families
  • Creating 22,000 new child care spaces
  • Investing in attracting, training and retaining Early Childhood Educators

Wildfire Recovery and Resiliency:

  • $50 million over three years for the Ministry of Forests, Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to enable communities to prepare for and respond to wildfires.
  • $22 million over three years for the Ministry of Forests, Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to repair natural resources values following the 2017 wildfires

Indigenous Relations

  • $201 million over three years for Indigenous housing, the Indigenous Skills Training Program and Aboriginal Friendship Centers.
  • $50 million for the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages in BC.

Transportation

  • Fare relief for coastal ferries as of April 1, 2018 which includes a fare freeze for three major routes, a 15% fare reduction for non-major routes and the restoration of the passenger discount for seniors

Taxation

  • Eliminate MSP premiums by January 1st, 2020 and replace MSP revenue with a Employer Health Tax in which:
  • Small businesses with payrolls less than $500,000 will not pay any Employer Health Taxes
  • Businesses with payrolls between $500,000 and $1.5 million will benefit from a reduced rate
  • Businesses with over $1.5 million will pay the full rate of 1.95%

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