Only three of 70 email messages to Premier Christy Clark obtained by theBreaker were in favour of her pre-election scheme to help first-time home buyers.
Two of those messages came from people who regretted they were ineligible and the third from the enthusiastic CEO of the B.C. Real Estate Association.
“Congratulations and thank you,” wrote Robert Laing in a Dec. 15 letter, with an attached news release. “The BC HOME Partnership is a constructive, tangible measure that will directly benefit many first time homebuyers.”
The rest of the email from Dec. 15 to 19, 2016, released under freedom of information, was harshly critical of the three-year, $700 million program that offers five-year, interest free loans up to $37,500 to first-time buyers. Personal names were censored by the government.
Many correspondents said the program would cause them to vote against the Liberals in the May 9 election and several branded it a vote-buying scheme that could backfire and further harm British Columbians seeking their first house.
“I am a 5th generation Victoria [resident] on one side of my family and a 4th generation on the other side and I’ll never be able to afford to buy a house anywhere on the Island never mind Victoria, but Christy, oh Christy, you can’t buy my vote,” read a Dec. 15, 5:10 p.m. email.
Wrote another on Dec. 16, at 2:11 p.m.: “Are you buying votes in advance of the next election? It would seem so. Given your government’s mismanagement of the incestuous real estate industry and blind eye to corrupt foreign investment in B.C.’s housing industry, you should be ashamed and apologize to the B.C. electorate for your abysmal failing in this regard!”
“You take reserves from ICBC and BC Hydro to create a pre-election surplus then spend it on free (for 5 years) down payments for first time home buyers,” said one received at 10:51 a.m. Dec. 16. “So you push house prices higher and increase debt on those already overburdened with it. Then you raise BC Hydro and ICBC rates (really a tax) and jack up MSP premium for seniors!! I can’t wait until May!”
Several threatened to vote NDP.
“I have always been a Liberal/Social Credit voter. The program makes me consider whether I can vote Liberal in the next election,” said a Dec. 19, 10:49 a.m. message. “The person who has been making the most intelligent sense regarding real estate is David Eby. The NDP critic. It is a sad state when I am agreeing with an NDP person. Sigh.”
And another, from Dec. 19, 3:38 p.m.: “I am very disappointed and I don’t know what I will do in May. I can’t imagine voting for the NDP but that is where I am headed.”
Others observed that the program undermined the progress Clark made with the market-cooling, 15% foreign buyers’ tax, announced last July.
“As fiscal conservatives, the government should minimize government intervention except where most needed. The last place tax dollars need to do is helping more people jump into our bloated housing market… it is not a sin to rent,” said a Dec. 15, 9:03 p.m. email.
“We have kids dying because they are aging out of foster care, a massive drug addiction problem, traffic congestion which can be alleviated by transit/highway development, understaffed/funded provincial parks and despite your government’s good efforts, a large provincial debt outstanding.”
Several writers said the new program would benefit Liberal friends and insiders, first and foremost.
“The market was correcting, the best thing you could have done for us first time buyers was to simply leave it alone. Your decision today has solidified the fact that I will not be voting Liberal in 2017,” according to a Dec. 15, 10:09 p.m. writer. “You have made me feel like your developer friends (Rennie — someone who gains incredible amounts of wealth when the housing market is high) are more important than the young people in this province.”
“FINTRAC did not do its job and neither did the CRA. The realtors have had a field day — while turning blind eyes to fraud — including your good friend and large contributor, Mr. Rennie,” said the message received at 8:11 p.m. Dec. 15.
Others believed it would do nothing to stem the flow of foreign money that is powering the real estate market.
“Shame on you, you have lost my vote with this policy. I hope you reverse it and focus on increasing to limit and eliminate foreign funds coming into the B.C. region,” according to one received Dec. 16 at 3:32 p.m.
The government claimed in a Feb. 4 news release that it handed out $1.1 million in loans after receiving 340 applications since the program opened Jan. 16. Some 67 buyers, it said, had already reached a contract.
The government is refusing to release the cost-benefit analysis and business case for the program. BC Housing is the Crown corporation managing the BC HOME Partnership, but its CEO, Shane Ramsay, said in response to an FOI request that he does not have such records.
Read the email to Clark below.