B.C. prepares to tackle housing costs, look into improper real estate conduct

The throne speech read in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday said housing will be a key focus for the coming months. Photo of B.C. Premier Christy Clark by The Canadian Press.

VICTORIA — British Columbia's Liberal government is promising better opportunities for buyers to get into the housing market, but warns there is no single solution to soaring prices in some communities.

In a throne speech read Tuesday in the legislature by Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon, the government said housing will be a key focus of its political agenda for the coming months.

The new session of the legislature begins amid questions about the conduct of some real estate agents in Metro Vancouver taking advantage of the area's hot market by allegedly re-selling houses multiple times to increase final prices and their commissions.

"Your government will look into allegations of improper behaviour in the housing market, and where appropriate, government will take action," the speech says.

The government says it will introduce measures to encourage an increase in the supply of housing and work with municipalities to reduce local charges that are largely hidden but add to the costs of homes.

"Your government will work carefully to protect the savings and equity that existing homeowners have painstakingly placed in their homes," the speech says.

Before the speech, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the government was considering increasing the thresholds on provincial property taxes in order to bring more first-time home buyers into the market. The throne speech did not specifically mention the property purchase tax.

The government also says it plans to offer farmers tax credits to donate their food to non-profit organizations, and it is promising legislation to modernize community care and assisted living.

The government will continue to push the development of an export industry for liquefied natural gas, despite slow downs due to global conditions, the speech says.

"There is no question that unforeseen global conditions are posing new challenges," it says. "Low global prices will have an impact on your government's initial timelines."

There are 20 prospective LNG projects underway in B.C., with accumulated investments of $20 billion, the government says.

"Success is not for quitters," the speech says. "Success demands steadfast attention, and resiliency in the face of global challenges."

Royal Dutch Shell recently deferred its final investment decision on a proposed LNG export facility at Kitimat until later this year.

The government is also waiting for progress reports for a $36-billion LNG export plant near Prince Rupert that is backed by Malaysian state energy giant Petronas.

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