Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson (B.C. government)

Housing minister mum on rental zoning

Surrey-Panorama, Surrey-White Rock MLAs decline to discuss issue brought up by homelessness group

Efforts to get provincial leaders to discuss publicly potential legislation that would impact the housing crisis have come up short.

Last October, Peninsula Homeless to Housing chairman Rick Bayer sent Housing Minister Selina Robinson a letter regarding a past conversation with the then-Opposition critic on Nov. 17, 2016, during which Robinson reportedly said that if NDP formed government, the party would introduce legislation that would allow municipalities to zone for rental housing.

PH2H is yet to receive a response from the minister.

After repeated requests for an interview with Robinson, Peace Arch News was told last week by Municipal Affairs and Housing communications director Lisa Leslie that there’s “no way” the minister could recall specifics of the conversation, and that the minister’s response is “status quo” from a statement she made through a communications representative to PAN last month.

On Dec. 5, the ministry responded to a request for an interview – through a communications representative – that Robinson is “very interested” in opportunities to improve affordability of rental housing.

“We are taking a close look at what more can be done, including opportunities for rental zoning which has been raised by some local governments. We will engage with key stakeholders on this important issue,” the emailed statement reads.

“We do have a huge housing and affordability issue in this province, and this government is committed to finding solutions that work long term for British Columbians.”

PAN also made requests last month to speak with Surrey-White Rock MLA Tracy Redies and Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims.

Redies, a BC Liberal, did not respond to the request as of Wednesday morning, and a communications representative for Sims, a New Democrat, declined, as the issue “does not seem to be directly related” to the Surrey-Panorama constituency.

Bayer’s letter to Robinson reads:

“Our former chair, Neil Fernyhough, briefly spoke with you at a forum on creating affordable housing stock, sponsored by the Metro Vancouver Regional District, on Nov. 17, 2016. The two of you discussed the challenges in creating rental units, resulting in the legal incapacity of municipal governments to specifically zone for rental apartments.

“At the time, you advised Neil that the policy of your party forming government would be to introduce legislation which would grant municipal governments the authority for such zoning.

“Now that you are Minister, I am writing to ask if your government will act on this undertaking; and, if so, what the timeline for effecting such legislation is; and the form it will take.”

Bayer told PAN last month that PH2H would like to see the provincial government “move forward quickly” with legislation that would grant municipalities the authority to zone for rental.

“We are in a crisis in our region regarding affordable housing and need constructive action now,” Bayer said.

Friday, Leslie called PAN and said, “You’ve really got as much as the minister can say right now.”

“She’s not in the position, none of them are, where they can foreshadow too much,” Leslie said, noting Robinson has “always been interested” in giving municipalities the power to zone for rental.

Asked again for an interview with PAN to discuss the issue with Robinson, Leslie said the minister was unavailable.

“The thing is, she wouldn’t have a record from something from 2016 in the conversation that she had,” Leslie said. “So, at best, I’ve talked to her office. There’s no way the minister will be able to track down her specific wording in a conversation from over a year (ago).”

UPDATE: A communications representative for Robinson announced Thursday at 3:10 p.m. that the minister will make a housing announcement at City of Surrey City Hall, 9:30 a.m., Friday.

“Media are invited to join Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Linda Hepner, mayor, City of Surrey, Dr. Victoria Lee, vice-president for population health, Fraser Health, and Wes Everaars, director of development, Lookout Housing and Health Society, for a housing announcement,” read the ministry news release.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fire truck, police car hit in chain of crashes on Hwy. 99 in South Surrey

‘People weren’t paying attention,’ says Surrey assistant fire chief

Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted young boys released from prison

Statutory release for Don Putt who Parole Board calls an ‘untreated sex offender’

Greedy family’s maid overcomes them all in Surrey Little Theatre’s latest play

‘The Late Christopher Bean’ is staged at Clayton-area theatre for a month starting Jan. 23

Two-vehicle crash leads to argument in South Surrey

Police investigating after one driver left the scene

Surrey man charged in 2019 Vancouver homicide

Chad Harry, 32, charged with second-degree murder in killing of 35-year-old Cong Tran

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Should winter tires be mandatory in the Lower Mainland?

ICBC dial-a-claims go up as winter storm takes toll

Canada Post driver in hospital after ice smashes windshield at Massey Tunnel

Incident happened on Richmond side of the Massey Tunnel

Abbotsford bank ATM robbery thwarted by woman standing her ground

Police arrest alleged known robber running down South Fraser wearing balaclava

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

Dad of missing Abbotsford woman charged after allegedly exposing himself in park

Barry Shpeley charged with sexual assault and assault

Most Read