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B.C. Premier Eby, Washington Gov. Inslee discuss challenges of climate change and housing

British Columbia Premier David Eby (left) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discuss shared goals during a press conference in Olympia, Monday, March 13.
Video stills from TVW, edited by Brandon Hollingsworth, SPR News
British Columbia Premier David Eby (left) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discuss shared goals during a press conference in Olympia, Monday, March 13.

The chief executives of Washington and British Columbia met Monday to discuss issues both places face, including climate change and housing.

The two leaders applauded the Inflation Reduction Act approved by Congress and President Biden in 2022. The legislation aims to build the country’s clean energy palette and reduce U.S. carbon emissions by about 40 percent by the year 2030.

“We are thrilled to see the United States stepping up to address this issue, and to put climate at the center of a key industrial policy,” British Columbia Premier David Eby told reporters. The premier said he has shared his concerns about climate change and the need for cleaner energy sources with Canadian federal officials. He hopes more support from the government in Ottawa will aid his efforts to work with Washington on climate and carbon measures.

“Because we’re so closely tied, because there’s such a shared understanding about where we need to go, investment that comes to Washington state through the [Inflation Reduction Act] will help British Columbia as well, if we have that strong federal partner in Canada,” the premier said. “It will benefit not just British Columbians, but residents of Washington state, as we show leadership up and down the Cascadia corridor.”

Calling the global move away from carbon-heavy fuel and energy sources “revolutionary,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said he thought cleaner energy options will create jobs on both sides of the border. He added that he hoped British Columbia and Washington can engage in joint efforts to cap carbon emissions in the future, including possible partnerships with other states.

“I think we’re going to have nothing but alliance as we move forward,” Inslee said.

The two executives discussed a second major issue facing both places: a significant shortage of affordable housing.

Eby said the Canadian province broke population growth records last year, and that inflow of new residents is still strong this year. That’s making it harder to find affordable housing. The problem, he said, is very similar to the one Washington’s grappling with – and so are the potential solutions.

“The provincial initiatives focus on our permitting processes around new housing developments, where the province touches those permitting processes. We have new legislation passed where we will be working with cities to set housing targets that match our population growth,” Eby said. “Looking forward, we are working with cities around addressing the ability of putting more than one unit on single-family home sites, as well as other initiatives around expediting housing approval at the municipal level.”

Legislation designed to make housing more plentiful has been a key feature of this year’s legislative session, and Washington cities including Spokane have taken their own action to broaden the kinds of housing available.

Inslee said the housing shortage is common to the Pacific coast in general.

“California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia – all have the same phenomenon, which is, we are extremely attractive places to live,” Inslee said. “We have had hundreds of thousands of people moving into our provinces and states, and we have not been able to build enough housing to house these people. That is the fundamental problem.”

There is one significant difference, Inslee said: that British Columbia has invested about $3 billion in public money in alleviating the housing crunch. Inslee supports a referendum that would authorize Washington to borrow $4 billion to finance the construction of more than 24,000 additional housing units, particularly for middle- and low-income residents.

The money will allow the state to “go out and finance the building that the private market will not finance, even though we accelerate permitting and are changing out zoning rules,” Inslee said.

The measure must be approved by the state legislature and by voters. The proposal was introduced in the Washington Senate, but no action had been taken as of March 13.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for fifteen years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.