B.C. Spotlight: One-in-three would give province say on housing, but plurality prefer housing decisions stay local

Metro Vancouver residents divided evenly between provincial and municipal control


December 18, 2023 – As 2023 closes, British Columbians find themselves in a similar place as they opened the year – concerned with the rising cost of living and housing affordability and disapproving of the B.C. government’s response.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds residents just as critical in December as they were a year ago when it comes to government performance on those two key issues, while rent and mortgage costs trend persistently upward.

In December 2022, 12 per cent said the government was doing a good or very good job of handling housing affordability, while 15 per cent said the same of its cost-of-living management. Twelve months hence, those numbers are now 13 per cent and 14 per cent respectively.

The good, or at least better, news for the BC NDP: they appear to be the party most trusted to resolve these issues going forward. The party holds a 17-point advantage in vote intention over the second place BC Conservatives.

The bad news is trust in recently released housing policies is low, and the province’s push to assume jurisdiction over some municipal decision making when it comes to zoning has the potential to ruffle more than a few feathers.

After the province released new home building targets for 10 municipalities and introduced new legislation that eliminates single-family zoning, 45 per cent of residents say the province is not best to make housing decisions, preferring their own local or municipal government. That said, one-in-three (32%) say the province is better suited to make these calls.

In municipalities with more than 5,000 residents, the province’s zoning policy will now be in force. British Columbians are divided evenly over the perceived effectiveness of this, with 44 per cent saying it will help, and 41 per cent saying it will be ineffective in addressing the housing deficit.

There is one area of more agreement, with respect to short-term rentals. More than half (56%) say that prohibiting short-term rentals at properties where the owner does not live will be effective in creating more long-term rental stock, while 36 per cent disagree.

More Key Findings:

  • As has been the case for all of 2023, cost of living (66%), health care (54%), and housing affordability (44%) are the top issues for B.C. residents.
  • 42 per cent of would-be voters say they would support the BC NDP if an election were held, while 25 per cent would vote for the surging Conservative Party of BC. One-in-five would support BC United (20%), and 12 per cent would vote for the BC Greens.
  • Residents in the B.C. Interior are much more opposed to the idea of provincial influence on housing decisions (61% say it should remain local versus 21% provincial), while Metro Vancouver residents are most divided (36% versus 39%).

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

INDEX

Part One: In housing policy faceoff, plurality say local decision-making remains paramount

  • Gauging support for new housing policies

Part Two: Top issues in the province and government performance

  • Zero improvement on top affordability concerns in 2023

Part Three: Vote intention

  • BC NDP lead still comfortable

 

Part One: In housing policy faceoff, plurality say local decision-making remains paramount

The fall legislative session in Victoria was one focused heavily on housing policy discussions. Persistent housing affordability challenges have frustrated many in the province. In turn, the provincial government, led by Premier David Eby, has taken matters into its own hands.

The BC NDP passed several housing related measures, including restrictions on short-term rentals such as Airbnb, changes to zoning laws, and additional targets that municipalities must meet to avoid penalties. This has led many in the province, including opposition BC United leader Kevin Falcon and some mayors, to criticize the province’s speed and potential overstepping of traditional jurisdictional boundaries. For their part, the largest group, but not a majority, of B.C. residents feel housing issues should remain under the auspices of municipal or local governments. Notably, Metro Vancouver residents are least likely to feel this way and are divided overall:

*Smaller sample size, interpret with caution

Men and younger people are more supportive of the province’s moves to take more control of housing decisions, though in each case these opinions are still equally on each side of the debate:

Gauging support for new housing policies

The sweeping measures brought in by the B.C. government are drawing mixed reviews from residents on whether or not they will be effective in addressing the province’s housing affordability crisis. A majority (55%) believe restricting short-term rentals to only where the owner lives will be effective at addressing housing affordability in the province, but one-third (37%) disagree. There is more disagreement that ending zoning for single family homes (44% effective, 41% not effective), and setting minimum building heights and density near transit (40% effective, 42% not effective) will generate the results the BC NDP government is hoping for:

Part Two: Top issues in the province and government performance

The government’s focus on housing comes as many residents select it as the top issue facing the province. More than two-in-five (44%) believe housing affordability is a top concern for B.C. That places it third behind inflation (66%) and health care (44%), but well ahead of street crime (21%), climate change (20%) and poverty (19%):

British Columbians are critical of the government’s performance on these top issues. Few believe it has performed well on health care (26%), inflation (14%) or housing affordability (14%). On the latter two issues, majorities in fact believe the BC NDP is performing “very poorly”:

Zero improvement on top affordability concerns in 2023

As concerns over affordability has festered for more than 12 months, there appears to be little progress on the file in the eyes of residents. Last December, 15 per cent said the BC NDP was doing a good job on inflation, while 12 per cent said it was performing well on housing affordability. Current assessments of government performance on both issues are statistically similar:

The Angus Reid Institute’s Government Performance Index compares residents’ evaluations of their provincial government performance on 14 issues across the country. B.C. rates slightly below the average mark, with an average score of 29 across the issues canvassed. After years rating slightly above the national average, the B.C. government has been rated more poorly on average than its provincial counterparts for every quarter of 2023:

Part Three: Vote intention

BC NDP lead still comfortable

The BC NDP continue to lead in vote intent, but there have been shifts on the party’s right flank.

The Conservative Party of BC, long searching for relevance in the province, now finds itself in second place, with one-in-four saying they intend to vote for the party. One-in-five say they would vote for BC United.

Combined, the two right-leaning parties in B.C. would be statistically tied with the BC NDP. This is perhaps why there have been overtures in recent weeks between the two parties on potential cooperation heading into a fall election. Adding to the intrigue of a partnership between the opposition and the Conservatives is their relative combined strength among older voters, who tend to be more active in provincial elections. The BC NDP leads among all groups currently, with greater strength among voters younger than 35:

Survey Methodology:

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Nov. 24 – Dec. 1, 2023, among a representative randomized sample of 487 British Columbian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI.

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodology, click here.

To read the questionnaire, click here.

Image – Matt Tsai/Unsplash

MEDIA CONTACT:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org @davekorzinski

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