Photo Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS | Chad Hipolito

Meet Advisors Tasked with Helping the Premier Solve Our Thorniest Problems: Lisa Helps

As mayor, she said housing was BC's "most pressing" problem. Now she gets to fix it.

Is it ok that a young family with two good jobs won’t be ever be able to buy a home?

Premier David Eby appointed three new advisors recently, and they’ll be attempting to tackle some of the province’s most pressing concerns.

We’ve already told you a bit about Doug White, advisor on Indigenous Reconciliation, and healthcare advisor Penny Ballem. Now we’ll give you the low down on the Premier’s new Housing Advisor.

Lisa Helps, Housing

Hopefully, Helps lives up to her surname when fixing the province’s housing crisis.

“The current reality is that many people in our province struggle to find housing, even if they earn a good income,” said Premier Eby. 

Eby says Helps will work with his government’s housing minister, Ravi Kahlon. Along with other partners, they’ll help set up and execute the BC Builds program. 

The program will focus on boosting up the ‘missing middle.’ That is housing for middle-income families, individuals, and seniors. 

Helps has risen politically over the last 20 years, going from a community organizer and activist to a City Councillor. She was the Mayor of Victoria from 2014 until last November.

During her time as Mayor, she championed affordable housing in many forms.

She developed the Mayor’s Housing Affordability Task Force and the city’s Missing Middle Housing Initiative, which developed long-term affordability plans and chaired low-income housing projects like Tiny Town.

However, her appointment has generated some skepticism on social media and discussion forums.

Many from the Victoria community have cited past and ongoing homeless camps as a reason to question her housing expertise.

Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association, says that while mayors do oversee housing projects, they’re not the most qualified to advise on solutions.

“Politicians continually seek other politicians for advice on housing when they should be consulting industry professionals such as builders, developers, and realtors,” said Edge.

“The housing market is their business and can provide all information on the regulatory challenges and costs,” he told the Revelstoke Review.

But there is more to housing policy than the point of view of builders and realtors. Folks who are unhoused are the key stakeholders. Also, anyone who is one paycheck away from losing their housing. And who isn’t in that position these days?

In her last days as Mayor, she clarified her views on the housing crisis.

“The most pressing issue in our city and province and country is housing,” she said at the time.

“Not only housing for people who are currently living on the street and living in tents, that’s obviously important, but housing for the middle class,” said Helps.

“Housing for working people, working families. It’s a bit of a shame that we’ve somehow normalized that a young family with two good jobs won’t ever be able to buy a home. That is not OK,” she said. 

Premier Eby will count on her to turn that sentiment into practical action.

We wish her the best and hope she can pull it off.