Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon kicks off Season 6 sharing his outlook on the impact of the Housing Supply Act, with Jake Fry of Smallworks and HAVAN CEO Ron Rapp chiming in with a few thoughts from the builder’s and industry perspective.
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About the Speaker
The Honourable Housing Minister, Ravi Kahlon
Ravi Kahlon was first elected as MLA for Delta North in May 2017. He is B.C.’s Minister of Housing. He previously served as the Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, and before that held several Parliamentary Secretary roles.
As Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, he focussed on the use of mass timber and innovative practices in B.C.’s forest sector.
As Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism he worked to reinstitute the BC Human Rights Commission and traveled the province to build an anti-racism strategy.
As Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, Ravi worked closely with businesses, workers, First Nations, and communities to create a strategy for long-term economic sustainability and growth.
Ravi’s love for sports and athletic competition has also shaped his outlook. When he was seven years old, his father introduced him to field hockey. A two-time Olympian, Ravi played field hockey for Team Canada at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics.
Jake started Smallworks in late 2005 and became a strong advocate for the introduction of laneway housing. He established Smallworks Studios and Laneway Housing Inc. and worked with the City of Vancouver and other municipalities to help develop zoning by-laws based on his experience and interaction with literally hundreds of potential small home clients. Jake not only wanted to build small but to build sustainable. He brings together a team of dedicated people and develops homes which blend innovative techniques and incorporate modern building science and Flat Pac with hand-built finishes and millwork.
“My desire in starting Smallworks was to build simple, elegant modern homes which, with basic maintenance, would look as good a generation after they were built as when they were new.” In 2012, Jake was one of two founding directors of SmallHousing BC, a non profit society. In 2014 Jake was named Ernst & Young’s (EY) Entrepreneur of the Year in Manufacturing.
Today, Jake focuses on finding new ways to broaden the range of housing types in Vancouver to create affordable options for single-family home ownership.
Ron Rapp, HAVAN CEO
Ron has enjoyed 40+ years of working in the construction and real estate development industry in Ontario, Alberta, and BC. As V.P. Construction, Morningstar Homes for 15 years, Ron oversaw the planning, design, delivery, and customer service for over 10,000 homes. His experience encompasses low and high rise multi residential, seniors housing and long-term care facilities, subsidized housing, and industrial and commercial projects, complimented with a with a broad range of exposure to, and or a direct hand in land acquisition, planning and development, product design and site planning, sales and marketing, construction, and after sales service. A long-standing member, and former Board Member of the Homebuilders Association Vancouver (HAVAN) while at Morningstar Homes, Ron took on the role of HAVAN’s CEO in 2020 with a focus on working with local industry, and municipalities in partnership with CHBA BC and CHBA National to advocate for all levels of government to work together to address the challenges of the housing industry including zoning restrictions, density limits, and NIMBYism.
Here's the Full Transcript of this Episode
EPISODE #46 Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon Discusses the Housing Supply Act
[00:00:00] Jennifer-Lee: Hi, Mike. Welcome back. We are kicking off Season 6 of HAVAN’s podcast, Measure Twice, Cut Once here at Ramy Films Studio.
[00:00:11] Mike: Hey, Jennifer Lee. It’s always great to be in the studio with you and Jpod Creations and the HAVAN team.
[00:00:17] Jennifer-Lee: This season will be focused on meeting industry leading builders and designers and exploring their HAVAN award winning projects. They’ll be sharing their challenges, creative solutions, and even some budgets too.
[00:00:28] Mike: Talking with industry leading builders and designers is like opening a door into the future. We get to see and learn about the latest building science, design and building solutions. As an example, we’re going to be meeting with custom home builder of the year, Jim Smith, and then our good friend, Todd Best from Best Builders, who won several innovation environmental awards.
[00:00:47] Jennifer-Lee: And speaking of innovation, we have a special guest today to help us kick off Season 6; BC’s Minister of Housing, the Honourable Ravi Kahlon. Ravi Kahlon was first elected as MLA for Delta North in May 2017. He is BC’s Minister of Housing under Premier David Eby. He previously served as the Minister of Jobs Economic Recovery and Innovation, and before that held several parliamentary secretary roles. Welcome.
[00:01:11] Minister Kahlon: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:12] Mike: It’s great. Great to have you here. And yet, if you were the only guest here today, it would already be a great episode, but wait, there’s more. We have some bonuses. We also have Jake Fry, the founder of Smallworks, joining us, focused on building laneways. I believe over 400 laneways have been built in Metro Vancouver alone by Smallworks. Pretty impressive. And Jake is also the co-founder of Small Housing BC, focused on accelerating the adoption of general diversification across BC. We’ve had Jake in the studio several times now. We’re always pleased to have you back. Welcome back, Jake.
Jake: Thank you so much.
[00:01:43] Jennifer-Lee: And finally, we have HAVAN’s CEO, Ron Rapp, calling in today. Ron’s been in the industry for 40 plus years and having overseen the planning, design, delivery and customer service for over 10,000 homes Ron knows a thing or two about the housing industry. Welcome, Ron.
[00:01:59] Ron Rapp: Thank you so much, Jen and Mike, and thank you so much Minister Kahlon, for joining us today.
[00:02:03] Jennifer-Lee: Perfect. We’re really excited, and we’re going to dive right into it. We’re just going to get right into it. Ravi, can you explain the Housing Supply Act for anybody that might not know about it yet?
[00:02:14] Minister Kahlon: I think folks that have been following this know that we have a serious housing challenge and
Jennifer-Lee: spoiler alert,
Minister Kahlon: and one of the things I think to back up for one sec before I tell you about the Supply Act is why we’re doing it. I have folks in my community, young families who are like, hey, I don’t know if British Columbia can be my home anymore. I’m going to have to, I’m considering leaving this province. And we’ve got seniors who are like, hey, I don’t know if my kids leave what am I going to do? Am I going to go with them? Do I have to leave the province? And the way we’ve been doing things, the way we’ve been advancing decision making on housing, it’s just simply not working. We’ve got to, we’ve got to change the system. And so, the Supply Act essentially gives me as the minister of housing, the ability to pick 10 communities and say to those 10 communities, hey, we need you to be part of the solution. And in order for us to achieve the housing goals that we need you to do. X, Y, Z. The way we’re doing it now is we’ve just finished meeting with local governments. We’re saying, hey, we need you to come up with a plan that shows how you’re going to deliver this many, one bedroom, this many two bedrooms, this many three bedrooms. This is the level of housing you’ll need to get some level of affordability so nurses, doctors, teachers can actually live in your community, so they don’t have to commute from an hour and a half away. And so far, the conversations are going really well. And then the next step is actually delivering on those on those commitments that they’ll be making public. And we have the ability first over six months to monitor their progress. If at six months we feel that there’s no progress being made, we will put an independent person in to assess what the issue is. And if at that point it comes to the point where the city doesn’t want to participate at all then we have the ability to step in and actually make some decisions in that community. And we don’t want to go there. We’re certainly hoping that we don’t have to because so far, it’s been generally positive, but we have the ability to do, and we will, if we need to.
[00:04:01] Mike: So that’s really exciting news. And I think I want to change the topic a little bit. Like we know what this is. Let’s talk about how this is going to help achieve its goals because breaking it down, it’s easy to say. But we have a couple of builders in the room with us as well who can talk about the actual implementation as well. So, there’s four tactics. Do we want to talk about those tactics?
[00:04:21] Minister Kahlon: Sure. I’m happy to talk about it. And Jake and others will certainly want to weigh in on the challenges to get the housing online.
[00:04:27] Mike: Okay. So, for our listeners and viewers, I’m just going to. Quickly read what they are and then we can have a discussion about that because I think this is some exciting stuff number 1) is to digitize municipal approvals processes number two streamline provincial approval three generate a list of municipalities with the greatest needs and highest projected growth and 4) province wide land use changes, so that means four to six units on a single-family lot. So, now that we know what they are let’s talk about how they’re going to help solve this challenge that lays in front of all of us in this industry in the government, all of us. We’re all dealing with it.
[00:04:56] Jake Fry: I’d love to jump in and talk a little bit. I think these initiatives are really laudable and I also think more importantly, they’re achievable. They really target viability and affordability, attainability as I like to call it. But I think there’s a couple of things really what we need to do is we’ve had a long-standing arrangement with most municipalities and regulatory bodies where they are functioning to restrict. And I think a lot of the issues we have around our ability to deliver housing, both as practitioners and as consumers to obtain housing, really reflect, is reflected in the fact that housing production has been done with a relatively exclusive lens, in the sense that restrictions have created it exclusivity. And if there’s anything that’s really driven kind of the speculative market that we complain about, it really falls down to that and to break that little lock or that keystone, that’s going to really unlock the housing that we need to be able to produce in a way that is both deliver something that’s modest, really livable, but more importantly, something that can be widespread and share that land amongst the community. So, people who live in the neighborhoods can benefit from this, people who want to live in those neighborhoods can benefit from it.
[00:06:12] Minister Kahlon: Yeah, and I’ll jump into kind of specific pieces of it. The first one is the one that excites me the most, maybe because I’m a bit of a tech geek which is around the digitization of the process. I visit local governments and I have this little thing where I try to talk to the planners and I ask them the same question, but I asked every planner the same question to see if I get the same answer and I never do. The answer is always different, so I’ll say, hey what are you looking at when a project comes to you, and they’ll give me the list and then I’ll ask the next planner and I’ll go away, and I’ll come back and ask somebody else, and they’ll give me a different list. And so, if we don’t have a streamlined approach of how we’re looking at every single application that comes in, that’s why we get so much variance between decisions on and project from project. And so, part of our goal around digitizing the process is we have 15 communities that have agreed to be pilot jurisdictions. And that’s huge because what happens normally is every community goes and does their own thing. And a builder says, hey, I’ll work in that community. I won’t work here. It’s too complicated. We are now finally getting communities to say, we’re going to do this together. We’re going to do one system where we’re going to move towards digitizing the building code. And so, what the, we’re going to start with building permits. And so, what will happen is that we will take the first step of digitizing the building code, which is, a PDF, which is the easiest one, but we’re moving to BIM enabled. So eventually very soon in the near future, a project that’s designed in BIM. Will be able to be submitted and within seconds to be able to be checked against the building code will be the first jurisdiction in Canada to do that. We have 15 communities that have signed on to be leaders in that. And not only that, when the application goes in it automatically will get filtered to the appropriate agency. So, if it needs to go to the forestry or environment or the local, whichever local government, the application will go there and perhaps at some stage, we’ll be able to see the comments each community is making so that we can have some more transparency on our decision making. So, I’m a geek out about it, but I think it’s huge. And, I’ve always said to lower governments, why aren’t we doing this? And they always say it’s hard to get everybody together. And so, we’re finally getting people together.
[00:08:15] Jennifer-Lee: Why does it take so long? That’s so funny because I have a friend that works in this space and he helps basically smart cities, municipalities go digital because it’s like we’re in 2023 and people are still doing things very archaic in city hall.
Mike: Fax machines.
[00:08:29] Minister Kahlon: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s one of the biggest things I always say. And I’ve been saying to the federal government as well. If you’re going to put money in. Do it with us because we finally got everybody on board if they start giving checks to every community They’re just going to go off and do their own thing. We want to make sure it’s streamlined but it’s exciting. I’m really excited about this. I had the role of the minister responsible for innovation before so I get to bridge my two worlds with this and that’s why I love it, but I think it could be potentially game changing for the entire province. Eventually my hope is we have one system that is the front facing the user-friendly fronts face of all local governments so that we can over time move that digital line and digitize more and more of the decision making. And by the way, as we do that, what will happen then, because the computer program needs A or B, right? It can’t have variables. It can’t have maybe this, maybe that. Over time, we’re going to need to make sure that all our rules are easily understandable and that decisions can be made really simply. And so, this will help force that conversation on many of the things that we’re doing.
[00:09:31] Jennifer-Lee: Well, if you can solve permit wait times, I feel like we’ll vote you in again.
[00:09:35] Minister Kahlon: It’s the biggest stress I hear from everyone. I’m sure Jake’s got some thoughts on it.
[00:09:38] Jake Fry: Yeah, it is really challenging, but my, I am following up on that I in part have a question too, which is that how. Ideally, as a builder or any practitioners, a homeowner, that sort of sense of surety that one wants. It would be lovely if we had something that was like a pre-approved mechanism, not only brought in the process, but the actual outcome. How can we start to look at being able to have a, like a catalog, like they used to. The CMHC have really good plans and people have a dynamic choice, but they also know with a surety, oh, I can buy that. And as production and looking at prefab, we can start to look at, hey, we can start to be cost competitive around what we’re producing.
[00:10:19] Minister Kahlon: Yeah, we are definitely exploring that. That is coming. And I was in Kelowna recently and they had this contest some years back where they had people design a triplex and then they said, you know what, we’re going to adopt this, and this can be easy for local builder can just take it off the shelf and just submit it because it already fits within code. And they actually canceled that program. And I asked them why. And they said, because it was too successful.
Minister Kahlon: Yeah. Because it was too successful because there were too many projects that were being built and they were looking so similar that they started getting community pushback that the housing was looking too similar, but it was effective in that people were just saying yeah, I’ll take it and just go with it. And so, I think what we’re looking at now is how can we have some level set designs, but also enough variance between them so that it’s not just one design, but that is going to be key, and it’s tied to the digitizing of it. So those that want to have a completely different system can get to from A to B can do it in a more efficient and effective way but also those that are saying, hey, I’m good with that design that you’ve already pre-approved. We want to go ahead with it. We’re moving in that direction as well.
[00:11:26] Ron Rapp: I echo Jake’s comments minister with respect to the laudable initiatives that are being undertaken here and to your point about the standardized designs and so on and so forth. It’s not without precedent. It happened at the end of the war. It happened with the Vancouver Special and so forth. And I think that we’re much more capable now of being able to come up with some archetypal designs that in turn do provide character streetscapes and so on and so forth and meet those criteria, but at the same time are very expeditious in order to produce and to be able to approve and so on and so forth. But one of the big things with all of the initiatives that are being undertaken is that they’re all good. It’s all heading in the right direction and they are quite laudable, but we also have to deal with the culture of what we’re dealing with in terms of processing to any municipality where it has to be a, as I think you’ve mentioned it before, we have to take politics out of housing and we have to be able to get a whole hands on deck effort in order to address what is obviously a serious housing shortage crisis.
[00:12:30] Minister Kahlon: Yeah, no, I agree. 100%. And nothing frustrates me more than having to make decisions on decisions that have already been made, that’s nothing frustrates me more than that, we last year changed the rules to allow local governments to use a new power essentially that allows them to skip zoning hearings if a project fits within the community plan. I think only five communities took us up on it. And Delta, my community, is one of the communities that took me up. And so there, the first project comes through. It’s the largest project in my community, it’s ever been built by a mile. And that’s the one that comes through. And so, I had a lot of folks who came to me, my office and essentially protest. And they, in their concern was why is there no zoning meeting happening? Why can’t we have our say? And my question back to them was, were you part of the community planning? Like when the community was building this plan of what could be built there, were you engaged in that conversation? And they said, yes. I said, did you support at that time? They said, yes. I said what are we talking about here? If you supported it when we were making a community plan, why is it different than when it’s actually now being built? And so, we need to create more certainty in that process. And we’re looking at what legislative tools we can bring in to do that. And it goes to your point, which was, how do we create, how do we depoliticize decision making when it comes to housing? How do we put more certainty in the process so that it’s not hey, great, now I’ve got this project fits in the community plan. And by the way, I got to spend a year and a half trying to convince the neighbors that I still can do it. And it is overlap, but I think there’s a pathway forward.
[00:14:04] Jennifer-Lee: I think one of the things that you might never be able to solve is the fact that a lot of people want to feel like they’re heard, too. And I think sometimes with that, even if they do have certainty and they feel comfortable with it, they just want to be able to say what they can say and feel like the government hears them. Because I think that’s just going back into playing politics. But I think that’s a big thing. It’s a lot of times we just feel it doesn’t matter who’s in. The government does not listen to us. Yeah. That are living here.
[00:14:28] Mike: Change is difficult too. And one of the questions I have is this, where we’re living, my street in South Surrey, it was built about 40 years ago and it was based on how they built houses about a hundred years ago. So how do we grapple with, hanging on to our, the way we used to do things for a hundred years versus where we have to go in the future and where we have to evolve. Because there are people valiantly cling to the way things were. I want a street with single houses, one car in each garage, et cetera, et cetera. And there’s people like us going no, each of these houses should have how do we preserve what was and balance what will be with what is now?
[00:15:00] Minister Kahlon: Yeah. And the two are tied together. The two points you’ve made are tied together. When we launched the Homes for People Strategy and the premier Eby announced it I was door knocking my community because you know, I like to get a test of what people are really thinking, not the bubble that sometimes we live in. And there was a gentleman at the door who said to me, listen, I get it. My kids have moved to Alberta. And I get what you’re doing, but I’ve been in this community for 45 years. This is home and I don’t want to see it change. And so, what I said to him was the same thing I’ll say to any audience I see, which is whether you want the community to change or not, it’s been changing for the 45 years. The structures perhaps haven’t been changing, but the people who can live in your community has been changing by not allowing housing. You’ve actually limiting the amount of people that can be there. What you’re essentially doing is driving the prices up. And it can only be available to those who have the deepest pockets. So, you’re excluding young families. And, in the end, we all want vibrant, healthy communities. That is a goal I think everyone shares, but you don’t have that. If you don’t have young families in it. If you don’t have young families, that’s not a healthy community. We want to see that happening again.
[00:16:05] Jennifer-Lee: I think that just opens a bigger problem and this is something I was talking to Mike before too, is like. You need to be able to solve consumerism and I don’t think that’s something that we’re going to be able to do.
[00:16:12] Jake Fry: I’d like to tie the two together and then bounce back to you, Minister, as well. What I have found, when in our work, and we’ve done a lot of research in this area, that I think that the challenge becomes a bit of a dance, right? Which is that this is not going to be for everybody, and every block will not get redeveloped. But what we’re concerned about is that as communities adopt this. that they themselves come up with programs which are fairly dynamic, so that someone can build something like a simple coach house, be able to sell it, or move into it and sell the principal residence, or in the corner maybe be able to do something that’s more, far more diverse, that might have a live work on the bottom floor and a few apartments above it or a few flats above it, like a stacked townhome. And I think that’s going to be the opportunity that unlocks a lot of this, which is fundamentally if the program is to succeed. It’s going to be attractive to people and then that will breed more success. So, I just, my question to you minister in part is then how do we, how can we do something that’s going to have to be a little nuanced and still widespread?
Minister Kahlon: I would say that somebody asked me if I was on a war path against single family homes and, no, we’re not, as long as people want them and they can afford them, they’re going to continue to be built in communities around the province. What we’re saying is don’t make it hard for people who want to live in a different type of housing structure. Don’t make somebody who wants to build a single-family home make it easy for them and somebody who’s happy to live with a couple of friends and have a couple units in the same structure, same size, have to go through all the hoops to make it happen. And so that’s essentially what we’re looking to do is to enable it. And the question you raised earlier, one of the big pieces we’ve said is we’re going to allow up to four units on single family lots and in six in other spaces and even more around transit, because the truth is we need to be able to allow more types of housing to be built appropriate to the, where people are at.
I have friends who, when we announced that, came to me and said, “You know what we’re going to do? The four of us, not me included, they didn’t include me, but four of them that were in the room, we’re going to buy a home, tear it down, and build four units, and we’re all going to live in the same space.” And then I joked, why wasn’t I invited? But this is the type of thinking I think we’ll see, where young families will be able to say, you know what? I can, let’s do this. Let’s try a different way of doing it. Or, in my community, we have a woman named Kathleen Higgins, who tore her house down. Built four units. She has all her kids and their families living in separate units in that same lot that they grew up in. I mean, how amazing is that for them? And so, we want to provide those opportunities for folks everywhere in the province.
[00:18:45] Jake Fry: And I like to throw in on that one too or build on it. What’s really interesting as it develops too, is that what we see is when it comes to a lot of the property right now is held and properties with a lot of equity held by older people. This is one of the best estate planning tools because what happens in that co ownership that we’ve seen becomes very complicated as that’s dissolved. But when you can actually at that point gift land and I think, and then something is built on that’s really important. And I think the fundamentally, the thing that I think we haven’t even realized yet which we will, which is super exciting is I think in many cases actually mitigates land speculation because this is more about land redistribution than land speculation.
[00:19:25] Jennifer-Lee: Like I was saying before, we got to get out of the idea that homes are going to make you rich. And that’s unfortunately a problem that I think a lot of things happen. And a lot of people, my age group who don’t even have, and they’re like, I have to own three properties or I’m never going to get ahead. And that’s kind of a mindset. That’s why I say we have to change that consumer mindset, but I don’t think really anybody’s going to be able to solve that particular problem. That’s a huge global issue.
[00:19:48] Minister Kahlon: And it’s an issue for, because our system has built the way it is. And some people come to me and say, why don’t you just do a Singapore does? And I’m like, they do some amazing things, digital processes. They get projects approved in four months, high rises, like four months. That’s crazy. They also own the state owns like 80 percent of the land. There is just, you can’t compare the two.
[00:20:08] Mike: Loving this conversation, we just have to take a couple moments for a quick break to thank our sponsors. We’ll be right back.
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[00:21:32] Mike: We were just talking about those four friends who didn’t include you. There are coach houses for that, by the way. But for a scenario like that, any one of us getting together, any four of us for the back, getting together to build a house together. Can we talk about how the province is going to help with things like wraparound services, step code and things like costing per square foot? Because in my mind, building four units should cost four times as much as a single-family home, but we know having talked to Jake in the past, that’s absolutely not the case. So how are we going to balance all of these things out, so it is affordable and attainable for those people? Because there’s no point building those four units if they still cost a million dollars per unit.
[00:22:06] Minister Kahlon: Yeah, no. And there’s a couple of things when I say to folks, we’re going to, we have to build housing faster. They think right away, we’re going to compromise on safety. We are not compromising on safety. And I think everyone in the industry agrees that safety is paramount, and we have to make sure the housing gets built in a safe and effective way. But at the same time that we can continue to build it. And we know the code is going to change. We’ve already put it out there that the code is going to change. Part of it is around accessibility. We have an aging population. We have more and more folks who are going to need housing to be able to address their needs. And some of it is around environment and climate change and making sure our housing is built in a way that’s climate friendly going to the future is going to be vitally important. We do have a big challenge because the national code has raised some issues around seismic activity. And so, I always say to folks, do you believe the research? And overwhelmingly people say, yes, we believe the research. Then I say let’s figure it out. Let’s get down to the table and figure out how we’re going to navigate this next piece around it so that we can have safety, but we can also get housing built in an effective way and, I’m always open to that type of thing.
[00:23:15] Jennifer-Lee: And I’m glad to hear accessibility because like our city in general for homes is just not accessible. I have a good friend in a wheelchair and that’s the biggest thing. Like she was even just complaining about it the other day. So, it’s like, why aren’t we thinking of this in our communities? Because our communities should include everybody.
[00:23:31] Minister Kahlon: and that’s the discussion that happens, right? When we say we have to increase accessibility, I often hear there’s a cost to attach to it. Yes, there’s also a cost not to do it, and especially with an aging population. And so, this is the balance that we have to try to find as we move forward because we don’t like – I met a lawyer who you know, he’s been in law for 15 years. He can’t even get into the courtroom to see his clients, because our building structures were not built with that mindset in the past. And so, we can’t address everything that’s been built in the past, but certainly we have got to think about that as we go forward. And that’s the balance we’re trying to find as we move forward.
[00:24:06] Jennifer-Lee: Like it’s not just aging, it’s building for people that have current disabilities as well that are having, that don’t feel included in the communities.
[00:24:13] Mike: It all comes under the umbrella of flexibility. Regardless of whether it’s flexibility for mobility or flexibility for financing. Jake, I want to ask you the same question because we were chatting about that with wrap around wrap around services, Step Code, cost per square foot. Can you give us the builder’s perspective on all that and how that might change and positively affect those of us who are either in the market or looking to get in the market in the near future?
[00:24:35] Jake Fry: Yeah, there’s definitely in this conversation, there’s two things I want to touch on. So one is it would be, and I’m sure there’s steps happening with this, but the more the province could get involved so that things is simple without getting too deep in the weeds, but things like PMT, transformers that the city starts to open up municipal land, that those service providers, because I think a lot of the infrastructure will actually, that we have a most cities will handle the volume that we’re talking about, but the distribution mechanisms aren’t there and we need, I think we need that kind of provincial negotiation leadership with those utility providers so we’re not looking at these homeowners really getting stuck. Like a good example, we have these multiplexes in Vancouver. They’re accommodating the PIT transformers on their property. But there’s two things, horribly expensive. And parking is probably the biggest concern and yet it’s taking up a parking stall, so for us to be able to open up municipal or land to be able, oh, we could put that in the, at least if we can put that in a vault or put that on the boulevard would be really helpful. And for the utility provider, look at augmenting those costs over the neighborhood who will benefit from a rather than the homeowner, are those discussions happening?
[00:25:46] Minister Kahlon: Yeah, there are some of those conversations happening and, we’re always open to practical solutions. And hydro comes up a lot. Folks are like, I want to build this project, but I can’t even get power to the site. And so how are we going to do that? Credit to BC Hydro. They heard the premier when the strategy got announced, they’ve been doing a lot of engagement right now about how they can be more proactive. But I think what’s going to be key is we need to have communities doing their community plans according to their housing needs upfront so that the utility providers, everybody knows what infrastructure is going to be built. Everybody knows what power is going to be required. That is a type of planning, which will get housing built faster. And that’s where we’re heading.
[00:26:27] Jake Fry: The other thing I think is going to be really interesting as we roll out or as explored, there’s more of the set designs or at least a fabrication techniques. It can be modulated change. It’s going to be really interesting because that flexibility to your point, Mike, I think it will be reflected because you can have mills putting together packages like they did in the 1920s. Meanwhile, you can also have the prefab doing components of those houses and be able to stock them and that’s where you’re going to start to get real affordability and that’s where you start to really drive down supply costs.
[00:26:57] Ron Rapp: Exciting. I think that the minister spoke to the fact that we don’t want to compromise quality. We don’t want to compromise safety and so on and so forth. But, and it is a balancing act in terms of the layers of regulation that are being applied in order to achieve those goals and to look forward to the greater resiliency and so on in the future. But at the same time, there is costs associated with that. And in particular, with respect to some of those wraparound services, you touched on the hydro in particular and, part of what’s driving that, as Jake alluded to is very expensive scenarios where in terms of electrification we are focusing on that, but we don’t have necessarily the infrastructure that’s appropriate, but by the same token, we’re also seeing specs that seem to be significantly overinflated and I think that one of the tactics that we’ve been promoting is the fact that we need to use all of the tools in the box, not just focus on any one particular now focused to be able to realize those opportunities. In particular, with and Jake can speak to this, too, when you start looking at some of these smaller units. And we start applying some of the higher regulatory and energy standards to it, it becomes a game of diminishing returns and in some cases, the metrics just don’t work, especially in smaller units. So, by saying, okay we’re going to have electrification. We’re going to provide for EV charging stations and heat pumps and all of the other electrical loads, and that’s going to drive the need for a 400 amp service. And by the way, the cost of upgrading to that 400 amp service is $100,000, right? Looking at alternatives that include solar or potentially RNG. In particular R and G, because the infrastructure is already there. If we don’t reuse and recycle the gases that are being utilized for R and G, then they escape into the atmosphere anyways, as methane at 86 percent or 86 times worse than any kind of CO2. At the same time, we have equipment and opportunity to be using very high efficiency equipment that would mitigate the amount of CO2 contributions to a great degree.
[00:29:13] Mike: Great points, Ron. We only have a little bit of time left and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what this is and how we’ll change things. I’d like to use Jennifer and myself as subjects to talk about, okay, so we have our features, let’s talk about the benefits. So, I’m going to use myself, I’m married Father of three. We own a home in South Surrey, and we definitely need a lot more space, and there are a lot more options available for my family now than there may have been five years ago. Jennifer’s different. She’s a millennial. She’s single. She’s a renter. She doesn’t own anything. And short of her taking an hour and a half drive to come in to work every day,
[00:29:53] Jennifer-Lee: and getting married to have a joint property.
[00:29:54] Mike: How is she ever going to own? So, in both of these scenarios, and these are very realistic scenarios, how will this legislature and legislation, be able to fix, I don’t want to say fix, but improve our lives so we can better ourselves and take advantage of living in this amazing province that we live in.
[00:30:13] Minister Kahlon: And that’s core to the Homes for People Strategy. The strategy is end to end. Anything from you’re struggling and you’re sleeping in a park, and you need to get to shelter to your wanting to get into the housing market.
[00:30:27] Jennifer-Lee: Unless you got some single guy friends for me.
[00:30:29] Minister Kahlon: You know what? We can definitely talk about it after the podcast, especially the four that want to build a fourplex without me.
Jennifer-Lee: Maybe I get to be part of that.
Minister Kahlon: That’s right. Maybe I can connect you with them. But there’s, the other point is, yeah, we have families who are in housing, but the housing is not adequate for the growing family. And so, this is the beauty of where we’re going with the housing needs reports and the housing supply act. It’s not just saying some provinces where they Ontario, where they say, just build units. Here’s the units you need to have. We know it’s more complex than that because it’s not just units. We need to have four-bedroom place for you. We need to have maybe one- or two-bedroom place for you. And so how do we ensure that we’re building all types of housing? And I get it. The studio spaces and one bedroom are cheaper to build. I get it, but if we can get the density approved, if we can get pre zoning done and make it faster for people to, to build housing, then there’s ability for more options to be built into that that structure. And that’s where we’re going to, because we know that everyone’s needs are different. And the challenge for me as minister of housing is anytime, I do something and I say this is for young families, I get older folks saying, what about us? And so, we need to make sure that the strategy works for everyone. And by the way, it will, if we can enact all the pieces that are engaged with it.
[00:31:43] Mike: Yeah. And I think it’s really exciting because we seem to talk a lot about number of units, but we’re really not talking a lot about the type of units. I know Jake and I have to, and Jennifer has spoken about this a lot, stratification of these units. So, it’s great. If I tear down my house and build a 3,500 square foot house to replace it, but that just takes care of me. If I build a duplex with two rental units, how can I leverage that with stratification and things like laneway houses and stuff. So, I’m curious about your perspective, but I’m also curious about the builder’s perspective as well, because that’s where the magic happens in the middle.
[00:32:13] Jake Fry: I’ll jump in this for a second. From our perspective, stratification really leads to viability. Without stratification, it’s going to be very challenging. And I think that the low hanging fruit in this spectrum of options are really going to be able to do something like a coach house, lane house in the back, and be able to stratify that because the capital investment is going to be so low. And in many cases, that’s probably going to be the most easily most palatable option for people and to have that viable. If we look at Vancouver, we’ve built roughly six, 7,000 lane homes. If we could have strata titled them, we could have, I could say with candor quadrupled what we produced in the last 10 years. And then those would have been really attainable homes. So, it would have been really interesting outcome.
[00:32:59] Minister Kahlon: Yeah. And that is going to be the path forward. We have to head down a road where if four units are being built, we don’t want it to be one landlord, this owner that has three units that they’re renting on, they’re living in one. It may be the case in some places. Most people wouldn’t probably do that. We want to make sure that there’s four families living there at the same at the same location. So, my four friends, the ones I’m going to introduce you to they’ll be able to have their own units within that that space. I think it’s going to be key.
[00:33:24] Jake Fry: Yeah. And I think Strata shouldn’t be, we shouldn’t be afraid of it because currently Strata units comprise about 30 percent of our rental stock, and so it doesn’t mitigate that people will do it for whatever reason. They’ll hold onto a unit, rent it, but maybe sell two other ones. And again, I think it’s that option and it’s just a charm of the program. If, with a full enough set of options, this really starts to be something for everybody, as opposed to something that’s enforced, that’s finite, that has its unintended consequences.
[00:33:51] Jennifer-Lee: I’m not against stratification. Again, just going to the point, it’s just ensuring that it is the people being in those units that need to be in those units, and it’s not somebody trying, and I know you’re going to always have somebody try to, get rich off of it, even if maybe you put all the legislation in place, but it’s the same thing. Like I know on the news recently, they said there’s more Airbnb’s than rentals here in Vancouver. So, it’s like, how do you stop a lot of that stuff? And it’s just ensuring that these programs get put in place and the right people get homes.
[00:34:22] Minister Kahlon: Yeah. I can talk about short term rentals all day, but I think there’s a lot of other topics that you guys want to cover today, but it, your concern is real because, I hear that from folks when I say we need more housing. They’re like, but for who? You’re building the housing, but if it’s just being bought up by investors, then, what about us? And so, I think that’s a real concern, especially, listen, this, the next generation is the first generation that’s going to be worse off than the generations before. Let’s take a moment just to reflect on how scary that, that is. And so, things need to change. And one of the things I hear overwhelmingly from young folks is that question. And we need to ensure that first off, we’re building housing that is more affordable. So, a different type of housing so that it’s attainable for young folks young families. And again, some of the policies we’re bringing is targeted towards that. And then, but we have a lot more work to do over the years to ensure that everyone has the type of housing that they need.
[00:35:16] Jake Fry: Yeah, and I will add, again, what’s so unique about this is a once in a multi generation opportunity to look at this. We’re really, we’re looking at post First World War land use and going, what should we do that’s appropriate now? And I think the charm of this, and again, I’ve used this phrase before, but really what we’re trying to do is we’re really breaking the back of land speculation with this. And that’s really speaks to yours. Historically, we’ve looked at more of a speculative approach to land. This is breaking up what becomes now, the speculation has got to a point now, we have to break it apart and then that creates an egalitarian platform.
[00:35:51] Mike: We’re at the point of the show. Which is my least favorite part of the show. This is the point where we run out of time and have to wrap up. Unless you can stay for another hour and keep going.
[00:36:02] Minister Kahlon: What are the odds? Yeah, another hour will be difficult. But I’m happy to come back because this is a great show. I’ve had a chance to listen to it. And I think the folks who are going to make the difference in our communities around housing are listening to this,
[00:36:14] Mike: oh, that’s awesome. We would love to have you back for season seven. There’s a lot of stuff to talk. There’s hours of stuff to talk about. In fact, unfortunately we can’t do that today. So, we will say this, Minister Callum, thank you so much for taking some time today out of your busy schedule to share your insight and your overview of the Housing Supply Act. Jake for insight on small housing and development in general, and Ron for sharing your overarching industry insight and experience. This discussion with can and should provide homeowners and citizens across BC looking to buy a home, help them learn more about the benefits of the Housing Supply Act. And it is a really exciting piece of legislation when you actually look at it. And the issues surrounding housing affordability in general, it’s a complex topic and one that hits home, no pun intended, for everyone living in BC. We learned a ton of things today and there are a ton of factors at play. Hey, there’s the importance of supply to meet the ongoing demand for housing that challenges red tape and zoning issues, interest rates, and a cost associated with development, NIMBYism, and getting everyone aligned to embrace solutions such as the Housing Supply Act, noting the importance of choice and flexibility. And by flexibility, we’re talking about things like wraparound services and alignment between the municipalities and the province when we’re building homes and communities for people today and in the future.
[00:37:30] Jennifer-Lee: And one last comment from both of you Minister Kahlon and Jake and Ron, if he’s there.
Ron. Yeah, I’m still here.
Jennifer-Lee: Ron, you go first. You’ve been nominated.
[00:37:40] Ron Rapp: Okay first of all, thank you, Minister, for taking the time to share your insights with me. Or with us, rather. The initiatives you’ve undertaken are certainly a step in the right direction. After 20 years of suggesting that we have to address the supply issue, I think we’re at a crossroads here where every level of government is looking to achieve those goals and we just need to try to do so as expeditiously as possible in a collaborative environment that provides incentive to make things happen rather than introduce obstacles and or restrictions.
[00:38:15] Jake Fry: I’ll jump in, I guess it’s my turn. I’ll, I just, I would add and like to build on what Ron’s saying, which is I think, this is the most prudent and thoughtful direction forward. And I think tackling those supply issues at this level, which is both modest and meaningful and in a genuine sense, I think it’s a really insightful approach that the, your ministry’s taken.
[00:38:37] Minister Kahlon: Thanks. And, again, thank you to both of you because you’ve both contributed to where we’re going. And the reality is that, when we are building the plans, we’re not just doing it with the expertise in British Columbia, although we have amazing expertise. We look at across the board, what are good ideas? We don’t care. What political party they come from, what jurisdiction. And really done it with all of your support and we have a lot more work to do. So, looking forward to being back next year to talk about where we’re at and what next thing we have to do.
[00:39:05] Mike: We already can’t wait because it was such a great conversation today. Before we go, I do have to take care of just a little bit of business. Our good friends and podcast partners FortisBC are back with a chance to win a Napoleon Prestige P500 stainless steel natural gas barbecue, valued at 1445, compliments of FortisBC. Just listen, like this episode, and you will if you’ve listened to it, for your chance to win. Details are available at HAVAN. ca slash measure twice, cut once.
[00:39:31] Jennifer-Lee: And for notes and links to everything mentioned on today’s episode, including resources shared by Minister Kellan, Jake Fry, and Ron, go to HAVAN.ca/measuretwicecutonce. Thank you to Trail Appliances, FortisBC, Vicostone Canada, Rami Films, AI Technology and Design, Jpod Creations, and you. Next episode, we’ll be talking with the 2023 HAVAN Awards Builder of the Year, Jim Smith of Smithwood Builders. He’ll be sharing lots of details from his award-winning projects, including some costings you don’t want to miss. Be sure to follow us so you never miss an episode. See you next week.