Housing minister Selina Robinson (centre), flanked by Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh. (Amy Reid photo)

Minister of housing sets sight on Peninsula Homeless to Housing group’s letter

Rental-only zoning is on the table, Selina Robinson said

Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Friday that she’s reviewing a letter Peninsula Homeless to Housing sent her last October regarding an introduction of legislation that would allow municipalities to zone for rental housing.

“We are looking at a whole range of issues that will help bring on more affordable housing, but the rental-only zone is certainly something the City of Vancouver has asked for, they’ve written to us. Everything is on the table,” Robinson told Black Press at an unrelated housing announcement in North Surrey.

“We have a significant affordable housing challenge across the province, not just here in the Lower Mainland, but right across the province, so we are looking at a range of things right now.”

Robinson was in Whalley Friday – joined by Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner – for a news conference at Surrey City Hall to announce 160 transitional modular homes in north Surrey.

The letter from Homeless to Housing chairman Rick Bayer referenced a conversation that Robinson, then-Opposition critic, reportedly had with former PH2H chairman Neil Fernyhough on Nov. 17, 2016. According to Fernyhough, the minister said that if NDP formed government, the party would introduce legislation that would allow municipalities to zone for rental housing.

Bayer asked if the government was going to act on giving municipalities authority to zone for rental housing, and, “if so, what the timeline for affecting such legislation is; and the form it will take.”

Bayer has yet to receive a response and, prior to Friday, Peace Arch News’ requests for an interview with the minister had been repeatedly declined.

Following the news conference, Black Press was initially directed to call communications staff with questions regarding zoning for rental housing. Told that Black Press would report that the minister refused to answer questions regarding rental zoning, the minister became available.

“If I recall, I think they sent me a letter and I was just reviewing it this week. Putting my response together,” Robinson said.

“We’re looking at whatever tools local governments need to get some affordable housing happening in all of our communities right across the province… We’re looking at modelling, we’re talking to as many local governments as we can. Whenever I meet with a local government I ask them, are there specific tools that will help you deliver some of the affordable housing?”

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, has yet to respond, 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.

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