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

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

(Natalia Cuevas-Huaico - Kelowna Capital News)
Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

In a feature article published April 10, 2021 in The Times of London, ‘headlined British Columbia has what it takes to rival Napa Valley,’ the valley is praised extensively for its natural beauty and wine. (File photo)
From the U.K. with love: Okanagan wine, scenery receives international praise

The Times of London newspaper recently featured the valley in a wine and travel piece

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

A member of the Oliver Fire Department works on the wildfire near the Cottages at Osoyoos Lake on Tuesday night. The fire is believed to have been caused by a human. (Oliver Fire Department Facebook)
UPDATE: Osoyoos wildfire believed to be human-caused

The Oliver Fire department also responded to another fire along the hike and bike trail on Saturday

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(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

desert hills estate winery grapes
Osoyoos winery back in business after clean bill of health

Desert Hills chose to temporarily close after a close contact tested positive for COVID

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Hikers are still able to climb to the top of Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, but the paved road to the upper parking lot will be closed from 7 a.m. to noon and all day on Sundays. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland park partially closed to vehicle traffic

Giant’s Head Mountain Park gates will be closed to cars until noon

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Most Read