While the provincial government’s budget offers solutions to try and curb the housing affordability crisis, taxes aimed at correcting the housing crisis in Vancouver won’t include Squamish.
In a statement released Tuesday, Finance Minister Carole James said the budget includes “historic investments in child care and affordable housing that will be felt for generations.”
The budget includes a plan to invest $6.6-billion in affordable housing over the next 10 years, with a focus on building rental units for “middle income” families and workers struggling to find housing.
An additional $1-billion investment was promised for childcare, including adding 22,000 new spaces in the province and helping providers become licensed.
Mayor Patricia Heintzman said her main priorities are improving rental housing and childcare in Squamish, and the budget promises that funds will be available.
She said now that the money has been announced, the District of Squamish will need to partner with other local agencies to take advantage such as Sea to Sky Community Services, Helping Hands, BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health.
“We can act on these opportunities that are laid out in the budget,” she said.
The government also announced aggressive taxes to lessen the impact of foreign buyers purchasing investment properties — but both taxes will not apply to Squamish, despite expansion to the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
A new “speculative tax” is aimed at curbing foreign investment buyers who do not live or pay taxes in the province. The tax will apply to Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Greater Victoria and Kelowna and West Kelowna.
The foreign buyers tax will also increase from 15 per cent to 20 per cent, and expand outside of Metro Vancouver. Similar to the speculation tax, it will now expand to the Fraser Valley, Greater Victoria, Nanaimo and the Central Okanagan.
Squamish was not included as a region for either tax, despite its proximity to the city and the link between the two housing markets.
“We are not sure if this is just an oversight by the province or if there was a rationale to exclude Squamish,” said Heintzman.
Both Heintzman and Coun. Jason Blackman-Wulff said they are concerned that being left out of the tax area could mean more pressure on Squamish’s housing market.
“I want us to be in line with Metro Vancouver,” echoed Blackman-Wulff. “I would expect that to be corrected pretty quickly because that could have pretty serious implications for our community.”
The budget also includes a freeze on all major BC Ferries routes.
Heintzman said she would have also liked to see more funding for regional public transit and was disappointed that more funding wasn’t provided for youth and youth in care.