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

Acclaimed author Eden Robinson hosts a virtual conversation and reading from her latest book, Return of the Trickster, on Friday, April 23, in conjunction with the Vancouver Island Regional Library. (Photo courtesy of VIRL)
Island author brings Trickster in online library event

Fans of the work of Eden Robinson will get the opportunity to… Continue reading

A Sooke man died Tuesday afternoon after his car left the roadway in 7500-block of West Coast Road around 1:30 p.m. and hit a tree. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke man dies in Tuesday crash on West Coast Road

The man’s SUV left the roadway and struck a tree

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply as overdose emergency turns 5

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

The Latoria South section of the Royal Bay development in Colwood could include a new long-term care facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood’s Royal Bay could be home to new long-term care facilities

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $8M land purchase for purpose

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth gets combative with police at Victoria hospital

VicPD officer injured, youth kept in care under Mental Health Act

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

Most Read