New legislation would allow Province to set municipal housing targets 


The Province of B.C. has introduced legislation that would allow the Province to set targets for municipalities and take a variety of actions to ensure compliance. Implementation of the legislation will require further regulatory development to address elements undefined in the legislation.

“The complex challenges fueling B.C.’s housing crisis require an effective and constructive partnership between the province and local governments,” said UBCM president Jen Ford. “With many critical features in this legislation still to be determined, local governments will work with the province to ensure that implementation is focused on increasing the supply of affordable homes necessary to address local needs.”

The Province shared details on the proposed legislation with UBCM prior to its introduction.

Overview of Legislation

The Housing Supply Act, introduced in the legislature earlier today establishes a process that:

  • Enables the Minister to set housing targets for specified municipalities by an order.
  • Requires municipalities to which a housing target order applies to submit reports on progress towards meeting targets.
  • Establishes a system of compliance that enables the Minister Responsible for Housing to:
    • appoint an advisor to conduct a review of local actions, policies and practises towards meeting targets, and report on their findings to the Minister;
    • issue directives to enact or amend a bylaw or to issue or refuse a permit; and
    • issue Orders in Council, to achieve the same ends as a directive if a municipality fails to comply with a directive.

The legislation also establishes requirements around the provision of municipal information to the Minister, and public reporting requirements for the Minister.

The legislation applies to municipalities and does not apply to Regional Districts.

UBCM Analysis

There is strong support among local governments for coordination by all orders of government to increase the supply of homes most needed by local residents. While local governments share the provincial government’s aim of increasing affordable homes, the final form of the legislation leaves a number of unanswered questions.

Elements of the legislation that remain undefined  
The legislation provides a framework in which many critical details will be dealt with through provincial regulation. Elements that require further definition include:

  • How will housing targets be defined?
  • How will the targets reflect the long (often multi-year) time frame for delivery of housing following local government approvals?
  • Will the Minister hold a local government to a target if applications are refused because developers are not prepared to provide the amenities/services necessary for the development?
  • How will targets relate to current Official Community Plans, regional planning and growth management plans, including efforts to limit urban sprawl and address climate adaptation and mitigation?

Because these elements remain undefined and will significantly affect how the legislation is implemented, UBCM encourages the Province to engage in a meaningful discussion with UBCM and municipalities to safeguard the workability and effectiveness of the legislation.

Avoiding unintended consequences
The legislation may lead to unintended consequences with significant implications for community livability, safety, and local government decision-making. It may:

  • encourage developers to take hardline positions including refusing to provide needed amenities and services when requested by local governments, or similarly, lead to the withdrawal of applications until targets are set, knowing that this will mean the diminished ability of local governments to negotiate on community amenities.
  • incent the overriding of due diligence to avoid the appointment of advisors and other corrective actions, thereby infusing an improper motivation on elected officials in their land-use decisions, and increasing pressures to cut corners.
  • create further pressures to develop new unaffordable supply to meet housing targets, even when this results in the demolition of existing affordable housing.

Careful consideration will need to be given to these matters in the drafting of regulations that will follow the passage of the legislation into law.

Resourcing and efficiency
The legislation will create significant additional bureaucracy, with staffing and resourcing implications for the Province. The Province will need to ensure that it has sufficient capacity to ensure that its decisions are well-informed and timely.

Elements outside of local government control
One of the factors that slow the approval of new housing is the lengthy timelines common for provincial environmental and other regulatory approvals.

Provincial processes including those relating to archeological approvals, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure referrals, Water Sustainability Act permits and BC Hydro engagement can all add significantly to the time that it takes to approve new housing. These processes under Provincial control continue to slow housing approvals despite the pressures of the ongoing housing crisis.

It is also unclear how the setting and evaluating of housing targets will take into account well-documented bottlenecks that include supply chain disruptions and labour shortages. For example, recent CMHC data suggests that labour shortages will continue to constrain housing supply. Furthermore, the approval of proposals and the speed with which that occurs is heavily dependent on the quality of the application being made, the experience and skill of the development proponent, and provincial review.

Consideration will need to be given to these and other aspects when the process for determining targets is established.

Local Democracy
The legislation gives significant discretionary decision-making power to the Minister Responsible for Housing and unelected officials (advisors) while at the same time providing limited or as of yet unspecified opportunities for local government input.

This marks a significant shift away from the form of local democracy envisaged in the Community Charter in which municipal councils are seen as democratically elected, autonomous, responsible and accountable, established and continued by the will of the residents of their communities.

Planning management and land use authority are the central powers held by local government-elected bodies to plan and shape communities. The rationale for centralizing critical land use decisions within the Province needs to be weighed against the likelihood that the proposed measures will yield beneficial and timely outcomes.

Going Forward

The housing crisis is urgent and demands substantive actions. Local governments across the province are taking concrete steps to address the crisis and are looking for committed, focused partnerships with the provincial and federal governments. More needs to be done by all orders of government.

UBCM is committed to working with the Province to address the housing crisis and is ready to work with provincial staff and decision-makers to support the development of effective regulations to support this legislation. UBCM will also continue to seek opportunities for local government input through the regulatory development process and would encourage our members to provide feedback to the Province.

If you have any questions or concerns that you wish to convey to UBCM, please contact Josh van Loon, Senior Policy Analyst.