Housing Policy — Same Horse, Different Jockey?

I am spending the afternoon watching the last gasps of the BC Liberals as the debate on their Throne Speech comes to a conclusion. The assumption is that, some time today, the question will be called and Clark’s government will fail to win the confidence of the House and be forced to resign.  The next step — as is our colonial wont — is up to the Lt. Governor, the Queen’s representative. She can ask the NDP’s John Horgan to form a government with his Green allies, or she can call another election.

As a Liberal Party donor and friend to the Premier, the Lt. Governor, I suspect, will do what Clark wants (but dare not say out loud) and dissolve the House, leaving Clark and her ministers to continue governing while we waste tens of millions of dollars on another exercise in faux democracy. Clark will then run her campaign on the Throne Speech policies which she stole wholesale from the NDP and could well win. I hope I am wrong because another term under the Liberals is hard to contemplate.

That being said, an article in the Mainlander today reminds us that both the Liberals and the NDP are neo-liberal capitalist parties and, on the key question of housing, are not very different:

“The [NDP] platform carries key planks over from previous campaigns, and like the BC Liberals, the 2017 NDP program refuses to tax the rich. Without a genuine source of tax funding and without a plan to intervene into the free market, the NDP-Greens are poised to offer BC a kind of Vision Vancouver 2.0. This means zero social housing targets and no meaningful commitment to rent control. Instead, limited tax dollars will be used to subsidize landlords, homeownership grants, and private developers … By merging market and non-market housing into a single vague policy, and by relying mainly on a strategy of “supply stimulus” and tax breaks (“incentives”) for the private development industry, the NDP has in effect adopted the same policy model as Vision Vancouver.”

It is frankly terrifying to hear Horgan claim that:

“Gregor [Robertson] is speaking up for renters” … So far, Vision’s program has transferred millions of dollars to developers (well over half a billion) without achieving any minimal level of affordability.”

The NDP supports Vision’s Rental100 program even though

“Increased supply has not created affordability, and for a simple reason: developers have used tax cuts to inflate their profits, not to bring down their unregulated housing prices. What we need in BC is not deeper tax cuts for a booming market, but instead new affordable supply and actual rent control.”

The Mainlander article concludes that:

“The NDP’s housing platform is guided by their commitment to property owners’ interests. This is reflected in its refusal to support a progressive taxation system for municipalities. Currently the province enforces a flat tax system for cities, but as the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has pointed out, a progressive tax on high-value properties could raise up to $1.7 billion per year in Metro Vancouver alone … As monthly evictions become the norm and thousands of properties continue to sit empty, a change of government feels more like a regime change from one party of capital to another … the NDP-Green alliance means that the “rules of the game” remain the same, with power kept in the hands of those who already have it.”

This is a valuable corrective to the rah-rah rhetoric we have heard from BC’s “left” since the election. I still want to see the BC Liberals defeated — because they are corrupt and saturated by resource fantasies; but the Mainland article reminds us that paradise is not just around the corner even if John Horgan becomes Premier this week.

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