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Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Performance Measures

Goal 1: Safety in the design, construction and occupancy of buildings

Objective 1.1: Relevant and responsive codes, standards and regulatory systems in place

The Office of Housing and Construction Standards works with builders, designers, building officials, developers, insurers, consumers and the general public as stewards of the building and safety regulatory system. The Office is responsible for the B.C. Building Code, B.C. Fire Code, the Safety Standards Act, and the Homeowner Protection Act.

In 2006, the B.C. Building Code was written in an objective-based format to promote innovation in design and construction. This means builders and designers are able to propose alternative designs and building materials that comply with the objectives of the code, while maintaining public safety.

The BC Safety Authority has been delegated authority to administer safety programs for electrical, gas, boiler and pressure vessel, amusement rides, elevating devices and aerial tramways under the Safety Standards Act. Through an administrative agreement with the BC Safety Authority, the Province has established safety outcomes and a means to measure the achievement of these outcomes through an annual State of Safety Report. Over time this report will analyze statistical trends in accidents, incidents and injuries by sector. The collection and analysis of consistent and comprehensive data is key to implementing programs that will improve safety. In addition, ten local governments5 have been delegated authority under the Act to administer safety for electrical and/or gas services in those jurisdictions.

Strategies

The Modernization Strategy is a multi-year collaborative review of the building safety regulatory system. The expected result of this initiative is a long-range plan to respond effectively to the changing needs of developers, builders, designers, building and safety trades, and other system participants.

Developing green provisions for the B.C. Building Code supports government commitments to address climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the energy efficiency of buildings. Green building requirements will support B.C. in becoming a leader in sustainable environmental management. This initiative involves continued consultation with industry, local government representatives, other stakeholders and the general public, providing multiple opportunities for input through:

  • an inter-ministry advisory group;
  • an industry advisory group; and
  • public review.

Performance Measure 1: Green Building Code greenhouse gas reduction

Performance Measure 2008/09 Benchmark 2007/08 Forecast 2008/09 Target 2009/10 Target 2010/11 Target
Green Building Code greenhouse gas reductions relative to current code (‘000 tonnes greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions per year), electricity and natural gas. 0.0 New measure 16.1 32.1 48.2
Data Source : Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Based on code change proposals for Part 9 Housing, including Energy Efficiency Act improvements.

Discussion

The performance target is based on electricity savings from houses and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the introduction of green building requirements.

Objective 1.2: B.C. Homebuyers are protected

The Homeowner Protection Act requires residential builders to be licensed and new homes to be covered by third-party home warranty insurance. Legislative amendments which are intended to strengthen consumer protection came into force on November 19, 2007. The Act is administered by the Homeowner Protection Office.

Strategies

The key strategy in support of this objective is to monitor the number and type of claims made under the mandatory home warranty insurance program. The relative quality of new home construction can be determined by the number of claims under the program. The relative safety can be determined by the incidence of claims relating to structural defects and water penetration. This information is important to ongoing research and education activities by the Homeowner Protection Office to improve the quality of residential construction. The incidence of home warranty claims in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta is compared in the Homeowner Protection Office Annual Service Plan Report. This measure will continue to develop as summary claims information is obtained from warranty providers.

Goal 2: Housing and support services targeted to those most in need

Objective 2.1: Ease of access to housing

This objective indicates that there are a number of housing options and that it is not limited to emergency shelters. Homelessness is a serious issue faced by some British Columbians. As a first step in addressing the needs of the homeless, government provides emergency shelter bed and support funding to community agencies to assist individuals who are temporarily without accommodation. Funding provides for year-round beds and is enhanced during the winter months when additional beds are needed most.

The economic and social cost of homelessness to Canadian communities is extremely high. Recent research in British Columbia estimated the cost of homelessness at $30,000 to $40,000 per person for one year.6 The IBI Group estimates that the societal cost of homelessness in Canada is approximately $1.4 billion per year.7 The greatest expenditures are in health care, criminal justice, social services and shelters.

Strategies

Strategies to meet this objective include building new transitional and supportive housing with integrated support services for the homeless, and providing outreach teams to work with the homeless. The Homeless Outreach Program provides the chronically homeless population direct access to housing with integrated support services. In October 2007, the province announced an increase in funding for emergency shelters, allowing them to remain open 24 hours a day/seven days a week to provide better services and assistance to those who are homeless. To further address homelessness, the province expanded homeless outreach services to a total of 27 communities to connect homeless people to housing and support services. The province is also providing 1,070 rent supplements to help the homeless access housing in the private market.

A new measure to focus on outcomes, moving those who are homeless toward more stable housing, is being developed for the 2009/10 – 2011/12 Service Plan. This measure is “percentage of individuals accessing housing and remaining housed six months after placement”. Targets will also be developed over the next year.

Objective 2.2: Housing and support services targeted to priority groups

The most acute need for housing is found among low-income people who have special housing and support needs. Included in this group are people with mental or physical disabilities, seniors with special needs, the homeless or those at risk of homelessness and individuals or families who have experienced domestic violence. Government’s response to this group is not limited to housing, but also to providing health and other social supports. Research indicates that by providing adequate, stable and affordable housing to the most vulnerable, government can reduce its costs related to emergency health care and other social services.8

Strategies

Among the strategies to meet this objective are the completion of the devolution agreement that transferred the administration of all federally-led subsidized housing units to B.C. and the harmonization of federal and provincial policies for social housing. Strategies also include: continuing to build new units; converting subsidized housing to serve priority groups; and providing rent supplements for low-income households with special needs, including the Independent Living BC program that provides assisted living units for seniors and individuals with disabilities. These strategies target directly managed units to the most vulnerable.

Performance Measure 2: Number of units created or adapted for priority areas

Performance Measure 2006/07 Baseline 2007/08 Forecast 2008/09 Target 2009/10 Target 2010/11 Target
Number of units/beds created or adapted for priority areas.1 500 adapted 2,472 created 550 adapted 1,277 created 700 adapted 1,405 created 850 adapted 1,053 created 950 adapted 199 created
Data Source : BC Housing.

1   This measure reports on the number of existing units that have been adapted or re-targeted to serve people with higher priority needs, including women and children fleeing abuse, persons with mental illness or addictions-related challenges and/or other special housing needs.

Discussion

The Province is committed to ensuring that B.C.’s most vulnerable citizens receive priority for assistance. Part of this commitment involves the creation of new units/beds that includes support services. Government has committed significant funding for the cost-effective creation of new buildings through programs such as Independent Living BC (ILBC) and the Provincial Homelessness Initiative (PHI).

This measure reports on BC Housing’s success in adding new units for priority groups such as frail seniors, Aboriginal households, persons with physical and mental disabilities and individuals who are homeless, many of whom are dealing with mental illness, addictions and other challenges. By March 31, 2008, housing units for priority clients, including: emergency shelters and housing for the homeless; transitional, supported and assisted living; independent social housing; and rent assistance in the private market, will total 98,670.

Goal 3: Low and moderate income households have an expanded range of housing options

Affordable rental housing in the private market is becoming increasingly scarce, particularly in Greater Vancouver and Victoria. The Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area vacancy rate is 0.7 per cent while the equivalent vacancy rate in Greater Victoria is 0.5 per cent.9 This is due to the lack of new affordable housing, combined with a booming economy and an increasing population.

Evidence suggests that in spite of the high level of demand, market rents are below the levels required to generate a reasonable return on investment for new construction. On the other hand, investor-owned condominiums and secondary suites in new and existing homes provide opportunities for expanding the supply of available rental housing.

In October 2006, the Province introduced a new Rental Assistance Program to help improve affordability for low-income, working families already housed in the private rental market. The introduction of this program will also reduce demand for subsidized housing by those households whose only problem is affordability. Eligible households will receive direct financial assistance that can be applied toward rental accommodation that best suits their needs.

Objective 3.1: Low income households have access to affordable housing

Rent assistance programs assist families and individuals who do not have enough income to find housing in the private market.

Strategies

Strategies to meet this objective include:

  • Provincial funding for Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters, a rent assistance program targeted to low-income seniors;
  • Shelter allowances for low-income households through the Rental Assistance Program, which helps eligible families bridge the gap between what a household can afford to pay and current market rents;
  • The funding of 1,070 rent supplements to help the homeless access housing in the private market; and
  • The funding of pre-development costs to ensure city-owned sites will be ready for the start of construction of new supportive housing. Pre-development costs include costs for third-party work, such as architectural, geotechnical and environmental plans and studies.

Performance Measure 3: Households assisted through rent assistance programs

Performance Measure 2006/07 Baseline 2007/08 Forecast 2008/09 Target 2009/10 Target 2010/11 Target
Number of new households assisted through rent assistance programs (new units).1 New Measure 4,394 7,000 3,000 2,700 2,400
Data Source : BC Housing.

1   Rent assistance programs represent an important element in the government’s housing strategy. This measure reports on the number of new households assisted through the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters Program, the Rental Assistance Program and targeted assistance for those who are homeless.

Discussion

Rent assistance programs assist families, seniors and individuals who do not have enough income to find housing in the private market. Tracking the number of new households that are assisted through rent assistance programs provides a way to gauge the responsiveness of these programs to the need among British Columbia’s households.

The target reflects the number of new households expected to apply for assistance based on historical take-up patterns. The 2007/08 target is substantially higher due to the introduction of the Rental Assistance Program in October 2006 which included an active communication and outreach strategy which continued into 2007.

Goal 4: Balanced landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities

Objective 4.1: Landlord and tenant disputes are avoided or resolved in a timely manner

An effective residential tenancy system provides landlords and tenants with timely information about their rights and responsibilities to help them resolve disputes on their own. It also provides access to alternate dispute resolution services and access to dispute resolution if needed. With improved access to information, the parties are more likely to resolve disputes themselves, reducing demand on the dispute resolution system.

Demand for Residential Tenancy Branch services is tied strongly to the rental housing market. Since 2005, vacancy rates have been extremely low. Because fewer rental units are available, many tenants and landlords apply for dispute resolution services, rather than change tenancies. Supply pressures are met through the informal rental housing market, including rental condominiums and secondary suites in houses. Many of these landlords are unfamiliar with the regulatory framework for residential tenancies, resulting in high demand for information. Web-based information meets some of this demand, as demonstrated by 2.1 million visits to the Residential Tenancy Branch website in 2006.

Strategies

Strategies to meet this objective include improving the quality of information materials; timely response to requests for information; full implementation of the case management system, implementing a desk order process for disputes related to non-payment of rent; and ongoing improvements to service delivery.

Performance Measure 4: Timely residential tenancy dispute resolutions

Performance Measure 2003/04 Baseline 2007/08 Forecast 2008/09 Target 2009/10 Target 2010/11 Target
Percentage of residential tenancy dispute resolutions scheduled to take place within six weeks or less of filing. 90% 92% 93% 95% 95%
Data Source : Residential Tenancy Branch System.

Discussion

This measure reflects Government’s decision to make residential tenancy dispute resolution more affordable and accessible than the courts. The more quickly disputes are resolved, the better the rental market can function.


5   The cities of Burnaby, Kelowna, North Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and the Districts of Maple Ridge, North Vancouver and West Vancouver.
6   Eberle, Margaret, Deborah Kraus, Steve Pomeroy, and David Hulchanski. 2001. Homelessness: Causes and Effects. Volume 3. The Costs of Homelessness in British Columbia. Victoria: Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security.
7   IBI Group. 2003. “Societal Cost of Homelessness”. Prepared for the Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing and the Calgary Homelessness Foundation.
8   Eberle, Margaret, Deborah Kraus, Steve Pomeroy, and David Hulchanski. 2001. Homelessness: Causes and Effects. Volume 3. The Costs of Homelessness in British Columbia. Victoria: Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security.
9   Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Rental Market Report — B.C. Highlights December 2007 Survey.
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