B.C. Attorney General David Eby removes his mask to debate changes to rental housing legislation in the B.C. legislature, March 8, 2021. (Hansard TV)

B.C. Attorney General David Eby removes his mask to debate changes to rental housing legislation in the B.C. legislature, March 8, 2021. (Hansard TV)

Rent freeze, construction rules fuel housing shortage, B.C. NDP told

B.C. Liberals vote against new ‘renoviction’ restrictions

The B.C. government’s focus on a few “bad actor” landlords came under fire from the opposition this week, as the NDP used its legislature majority to push through new measures to aimed at policing the eviction of tenants for renovations.

B.C. Liberal housing critic Ben Stewart pressed Attorney General David Eby, the new minister for housing, on the need to allow major renovations on rental buildings that are often up to 60 years old. Stewart said the government’s extension of a COVID-19 rent freeze until the end of 2021 is the latest disincentive for investing in rental housing stock, which continues to be in short supply.

Stewart pointed to a 2018 study by LandlordBC that calculated how rent controls widen the gap. It shows rental operating expenses growing at a 10-year average of 7.6 per cent annually, while rent increases were capped to inflation plus two per cent, or 4.5 per cent in 2018. The NDP government then dropped the two per cent, capping rent increases at the inflation rate of 2.5 per cent starting in 2019, and then froze rents entirely as the pandemic took hold.

“Repeatedly, governments have tried to solve the problem of housing by trying to control demand,” the landlord study noted. “Rent controls and other restrictions have been around since the 1970s and have never worked to alleviate the issues.” More investment in new and existing housing is needed, LandlordBC argued.

Eby defended the rent freeze and the move to stop “renovictions,” and said his government is working on getting new rental housing built. He confirmed that the rent freeze does not apply to post-secondary student housing, where students will be heading back this fall as the COVID-19 pandemic is relieved by widespread vaccinations.

The latest changes to the Residential Tenancy Act target landlords trying to take advantage of the tight urban rental market by evicting tenants for renovations to allow a new tenant to come in at higher rent.

Eby said the government will watch the effect of the new legislation to see if it leads to old apartment buildings being torn down instead of fixed up.

“We’ll be monitoring this, and if we do see a sudden rash of demolitions across the province, certainly, we would move to act,” Eby said. “This was aimed at the attempt to increase rents in an existing unit with a cosmetic renovation.”

RELATED: B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze to the end of 2021

RELATED: Rental vacancy rate hits lowest level since 2002

B.C. Liberal MLAs voted against new measures to require landlords to prove in advance they are going to do substantial renovations that require rental property to be vacant. A show-of-hands vote initially defeated the section, before NDP house leader Mike Farnworth rallied enough MLAs to vote by video link to save the measure.

Eby called the requirement for tenants to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch to stop an eviction “a huge waste of resources at the Residential Tenancy Branch for bad actor landlords that have been abusing this section. It’s not even close to the majority of landlords, but a group of bad actors that saw a way to try to circumvent the rent controls that are in place in our province, which pre-existed our government, and this test was put in place.”

Another long-standing issue for building and renovating rental housing is the length of time to get permits at the municipal level. The B.C. government held a series of meetings in Nanaimo, Prince George, Kelowna and Vancouver, and produced a report in 2019 recommending ways to speed up approvals.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsRental accommodation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rendering shows an “mini urban bazaar” for very small businesses proposed in Cumberland. Image, Cumberland staff report
Cumberland considers microbusiness hub downtown

Applicant will have to host online or outdoor meeting for public input

From left - Rev. Sulin Milne, rector of St Peter’s, Karen Cummins and Bill Henderson of Nature Comox Valley pose for a photo with the newly-planted Garry oak tree. Photo supplied
Young Garry oak planted at St. Peter’s church gardens as a sign of resiliency

By Tony Reynolds Special to The Record St Peter’s Anglican Church, Comox,… Continue reading

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Co-ordinator/founder David Clarke, right, is pictured with members of Comox Valley Street Outreach during Monday’s rig dig. Scott Stanfield photo
Comox Valley group aims to stop overdose deaths, reduce stigma

As the overdose crisis worsens throughout B.C., a local advocacy group is… Continue reading

London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings. Screenshot, London Drugs
Courtenay London Drugs now taking COVID-19 bookings

A number of locations in Western Canada selected to give vaccine

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read