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

web
Mission mayoral candidate – Dave Perritt

Candidates answer three questions about issues impacting Mission

The West Coast Women’s Show is among numerous events held annually at Tradex in Abbotsford. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Show producers start petition against city’s call for Tradex proposals

Abbotsford site should remain as events facility, petition states

Fire crews battle a large wildfire north of Highway 1 at Yale Road West on Thursday, April 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS w/ VIDEO: Large 10-hectare wildfire ‘not quite contained’ day after it started in Chilliwack

Chilliwack Fire Department completing hot-spot controls, foot patrols of area on day two

web
UPDATE: Fire investigators on scene at Mission Walmart

Fire department has yet to rule out whether it was intentionally set

Patrick Penner photo.
Southbound crash on Abbotsford-Mission Bridge

Crash involves dump truck and at least one other vehicle, emergency crews on scene

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (Black Press Media files)
‘Stereotypes’ not an issue in Langley sex assault ruling, Court of Appeal says

The Court of Appeal upheld a conviction in two attacks on a 17-year-old

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
The plane blasted through an airport fence and down a hill, before stopping before a cement barrier on Highway 5A, right in front of a school bus. Photo submitted.
Student pilot crashes plane onto Highway 5A almost hitting school bus

Aircraft hit pavement right in front of school bus

Eight-year-old Piper and her family were raising money to help Guinevere, the bearded dragon, get a gynecological surgery. Sadly, the reptile didn’t survive the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Lizard fails to survive surgery, GoFundMe dollars help Langley family offset medical bills

Guinevere, a pet bearded dragon, underwent an ovariectomy on Tuesday

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Road rager fails breathalyzer on busy B.C. highway in vehicle he shouldn’t be driving

Saanich police say man was operating vehicle without required ignition lock

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier John Horgan booked to get AstraZeneca shot Friday

‘Let’s show all British Columbians that the best vaccine is the one that’s available to you now,’ he said

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Most Read