Election day in Mission is Oct. 15 (please tell me you already knew this) and as I’ve been speaking to voters and candidates about the issues important to them, I’ve noticed a great distances between these two groups.
While most of the candidates have been repeating the mantra of “lowering” property taxes, voters have been telling me they are more concerned about housing affordability.
Some candidates have mentioned this topic, but I have heard few realistic solutions being offered about how to achieve that goal.
I attended the Sept. 27 all-candidates’ meeting hosted by the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce and got an earful from those voters attending the event about housing issues.
The loudest were a few renters I spoke with who are fed up with high rental prices and predatory landlords.
Cities do have some control over the conditions of rental housing, but not really when it comes to poor treatment of renters. That’s the purvey of the Residential Tenancy Branch in BC. (The effectiveness of the RTB is the topic for a whole other column – neither landlords nor renters seem happy with the system.)
One person at the election event was a Mission renter named Tamara. She didn’t want her last name printed because she’s actively trying to find a new rental home and doesn’t want to lose out if a landlord searches her name.
Tamara thinks Mission city council should be trying to get more affordable rental apartments built, whether through private developers or in partnership with the feds or the province.
Tamara has had battles with some landlords who used the pandemic to take advantage of tenants. One tried an illegal rent hike and when she pointed out the actual B.C. rules, Tamara woke up one day to find out the hot water wasn’t working. It took more than a day to get a hold of the landlord, who claimed it was just broken. Tamara didn’t buy it and thinks the landlord was being “vindictive” after she refused the illegal rent hike. There were other incidents that Tamara attributes to the landlord trying to force her to leave so he could raise the rent.
“We need more options than just basement suites because some of these landlords are just abusive,” Tamara said. “If there was more competition, then some of these landlords would have to treat us fairly. Right now, they know renters have few options. I’ve been trying to move for six months, but don’t want to jump into another bad situation. Our local politicians need to remember that renters are voters too.”
It’s an interesting take – and a depressing one.
One problem with cities like Mission wanting to add density is the dramatic pushback from single-family house owners who don’t want things to change.
Just look at what is going on in Vancouver as plans are passed to add density. That’s in a big city – imagine the outcry in a small town in Mission.
The people hurt the most are young people who have to rent because they can’t afford to buy a home.
Cities must do more to add affordable homes to the rental stock.