EDITORIAL: Throne promises

The provincial government isn't likely to seriously consider any housing issues in Parksville Qualicum Beach

When the largest cities of B.C. sneeze, the rest of the province catches a cold.

It’s not difficult to take a cynical posture when one hears a government’s throne speech. They are, by nature, a way to list vague references to a government’s plan for the year. Details are scarce and nothing is set in stone.

Where the rubber hits the road is the budget that follows the throne speech, where it’s revealed which plans are actually going to get funding.

Case in point from this week’s throne speech in Victoria: promises related to housing.

The real estate industry is under the microscope on the Lower Mainland this week and the throne speech promised the government “will look into any allegations of improper behaviour in the housing market and, where appropriate, take action.”

The focus is on million-dollar-plus properties being flipped, or “shadow flipped.”

This is relevant to the Vancouver market, where the average home costs around $1 million.

Housing issues in Parksville Qualicum Beach are not likely to hit the radar of Premier Christy Clark or her government. We suspect they look at the average price for a home here — less than $400,000 — and dismiss any talk of housing issues.

They would be wrong. If you are under 40 years of age here and you aren’t working for the school district or another form of government, you are likely working in some service-industry job. Or a couple of them. Incentives to become an owner instead of a renter carry no water — you are living paycheque to paycheque.

Rental units here, if you can find them, gobble around 40 per cent of your take-home pay. Throw utilities, food, a vehicle and a phone into the mix and, voila, paycheque gone.

What’s really needed here is affordable housing. We believe provincial government initiatives that will encourage both municipalities (which have land sitting vacant) and developers to build affordable housing will go a long way to increasing the quality of life for all. Those who can spend a lower percentage of their pay on rent can spend that money in the community. Or actually save some money to purchase a home. They can also pay for more training or education to increase their incomes.

In the end, affordable housing can increase tax revenue — property and income taxes — for municipalities and the provincial/federal governments, which in turn can be used for improving infrastructure and services, which is a win for all.

— Editorial by John Harding

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