The Tyee’s four quick fixes for improving life for renters… LandlordBC’s perspective

I read Christopher Pollen’s recent article in The Tyee outlining four quick fixes for the next provincial government to consider to improve housing affordability and life for renters.  First of all, let me start by saying that Christopher and the entire Tyee team deserve huge recognition for the terrific job they have done in the past 12 plus months amplifying the housing challenges we face in British Columbia.  They deserve accolades for their hard work and journalistic integrity for raising the issues and encouraging intelligent dialogue.  I would like to give special recognition to Michelle Hoar who organized and drove the two Tyee Housing Fix Events which brought together a diverse group of stakeholders together to look at affordable housing from several new perspectives.

In his article, Christopher touches on issues that LandlordBC has addressed publicly with notable alignment for the concerns and solutions outlined in his article.

LandlordBC represents responsible landlords.  Responsible landlords do not endorse contravention of the Residential Tenancy Act (the Act) as it pertains to fixed terms tenancies with a vacate clause.  Responsible landlords support enforcement through administrative penalties for landlords who are in contravention of the Act.  And, finally, responsible landlords support the proper funding of the Residential Tenancy Branch so that justice is served for both tenants and landlords.  (NOTE:  We would also recommend, in the interests of protecting responsible tenants, who form the majority, that administrative penalties be applied to tenants who knowingly contravene the Act and prey upon less sophisticated landlords.  These “serial abusers” hurt good tenants and landlords alike.)

We need new purpose-built rental supply and a lot of it.  We appear to be on the verge of a change in government with the NDP assuming power.  They have cited a goal of 11,400 new units of housing, most of it rental, in each of the next 10 years.  We applaud their very ambitious goal and LandlordBC and our industry look forward to working with them to help achieve it.

The suggestion that the Allowable Annual Rent Increase be reduced from the current 2% +CPI would be catastrophic for the development of new purpose-built rental supply and would further exasperate the enhancement of existing supply, the majority of which is 40-60 years old.  Such a measure, while seemingly innocuous to some, would harm a generation of British Columbians just as we enter a new reality whereby renting will be their primary housing option.

Ontario was cited for their policy in this regard.  Economists have been highly critical of the recent policy measures Ontario implemented, and rental housing industry experts have commented that Ontario just played right into the hands of developers interested in simply building more condos for speculators versus the development of secure, professionally operated, purpose-built rental housing.  These same economists, like LandlordBC, have strongly espoused the need for robust renter support programming like portable housing benefits until the development of new purpose-built rental can create greater balance in the market (we would love to see a 3% to 4% vacancy rate in persistently low vacancy rate regions of BC…it would be good for renters and good for responsible and professional landlords).

What we desperately need is progressive tax policy like we used to have from the Feds and, stronger engagement and support from the BC government and municipalities across the province, to help us build new purpose-built rental supply.  That is the solution to improving life for renters in BC.

As stated at the outset, LandlordBC and the responsible landlords we represent want to ensure that tenants are treated fairly and with respect and that those landlords who contravene the Act suffer  appropriate consequences.  We also want justice for both tenants and landlords.  LandlordBC is committed to the professionalization of the rental housing industry though our quality assurance programming including the Landlord Registry™ and the Certified Rental Building Program, and we will continue to advocate to senior levels of government for incentives to help us build new purpose-built rental housing and for the funding of robust renter financial support programs.

David Hutniak