The B.C. government has moved to cap B.C. rents to the rate of inflation, as identified by an MLA task force.
Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson announced the decision in Vancouver Wednesday, saying the government has heard the message that a 4.5 per cent increase would be too much for tenants in 2019. The change limits that to 2.5 per cent.
Premier John Horgan called the move “a good first step” in dealing with a long-running shortage of affordable rental accommodation. The B.C. cabinet approved the order Wednesday to change the formula.
The rent cap announcement was pushed out ahead of the completion of a rental task force that has been touring the province to seek solutions to the rental housing shortage and high rents. It amends a long-standing formula that permits landlords to increase rent once a year at a maximum of the inflation rate plus two per cent.
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who chaired the task force as it toured the province and compared other provincial policy, recommended the change Monday. He said rising rents and lack of maintenance are problems that go beyond Vancouver.
“We saw too many cases where rents were being increased to the maximum every year, and the buildings were falling apart,” Chandra Herbert said.
The task force called on Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson to act as soon as this week to change the formula, keeping rent increases down to the federally forecast inflation rate of 2.5 per cent for 2019.
Like Ontario and Manitoba, B.C. will allow property owners to apply for additional rent increases to cover maintenance and renovations.
B.C. Liberal MLA Todd Stone reminded Horgan about his broken election promise to provide every renter in B.C. with a $400 annual rebate, and criticized the idea of making landlords apply for increases to cover additional costs.
“The arduous bureaucratic process to approve them will result in landlords having little incentive to renovate ageing housing stock in cities like Vancouver and Victoria,” Stone said.
In the minority government that emerged in 2017, the NDP needs the support of the three B.C. Green Party MLAs or the opposition B.C. Liberals to pass measures such as this. Green leader Andrew Weaver has been adamant that he won’t support an across-the-board government grant for renters.
“Landlords typically, when they get a good tenant, they don’t raise the rent,” Weaver said at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where the rent issue was debated. “But if government’s going to add $400 to every tenant, the landlord’s just going to raise the rent, and the tenant’s going to pay the money to the landlord.”