B.C.’s minister of municipal affairs announced funding for several new initiatives at the 2022 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) Convention, including $62 million for Fraser Valley communities affected by last year’s flooding.
But Nathan Cullen also acknowledged that more could be done to address housing among other issues.
The most significant news came about 30 minutes into a speech delivered in Whistler today when Cullen announced funding for Abbotsford to build a water system that would also serve Mission and the Matsqui First Nation.
The project — with an overall budget clocking in at $84.4 million — will see the installation of new wells, construction of a water-treatment plant and a pump station tying into the existing regional system.
Cullen also announced plans for a $10 million 2023 program to help municipalities with climate change planning.
After gathering no small measure of applause from UBCM delegates, Cullen also highlighted past announcements like the $76 million CleanBC Local Government Climate Action Program first announced in May 2022, and a provincial commitment of $7 billion toward creating 114,000 new homes over 10 years. About 35,000 are constructed or underway.
“They are helping to address the supply issue, you know far too well,” he said.
The promise of 114,000 new homes dates back to 2017 and critics say it is insufficient to deal with the housing shortage. Cullen acknowledged more could be done.
“You are permitting and developing more housing than you ever have before and it’s still not enough,” he told delegates. “We have to do more and do more together.”
That statement can also be read as a peace offer to municipal delegates after then-attorney-general David Eby, who was also responsible for housing, found himself in a back-and-forth with UBCM earlier this year.
Eby had earlier criticized municipal goverments for holding up housing developments through their approval process. UBCM later released a report which found new housing has been matching provincial population growth but not in affordable and rental housing. Eby in turn said UBCM’s report did not match facts on the ground.
When asked about more specific measures during a later press conference, Cullen later said the government is receiving “many, many” requests from local government during meetings at UBCM.
“We are of course in the budget (planning) phase, as we start to prepare for the 2023 budget,” he said. “Our partnerships with cities like Abbotsford and Mission and beyond should what our citizens require of us, which is finding ways to take on incredibly complex and expensive problems and do so together, often with our federal partners alongside.”
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