We’ve heard an awful lot about house prices lately, but left out of the conversation has been the other half of Vancouver’s population: renters.
Low vacancy rates and not enough new rental construction have left them feeling the squeeze too.
Witness the recent rental property focused Goodman Report which suggested the rent on an apartment is jumping on average 10-20% when an apartment turns over.
That’s just what Georgia Straight reporter Travis Lupick found in his recent look at the rental market.
One renter he spoke to, who tried to match her friends with her landlord as she vacated an apartment, inadvertently started a bidding war: the end result – the rent went from $1,200 a month to $1,600 overnight.
Lupick says that’s got activists throwing around a radical idea: rent control.
Lupick says he’s surprised it’s taken so long for an idea like this to come up.
“For some reason, the housing debates in this city have focused exclusively on interests of the wealthy. Always talked about are homes over $2 million on the West side now, real estate agents shadow flipping … the housing debate has exclusively been on homeowners and and expensive homeowners – luxury properties. And more than half of Vancouver’s population are renters, and they’re being completely left out of the conversation.”
He says housing activists like DJ Larkin, with the Pivot Legal Society, are now pressing the province to look at Quebec’s model of managing rents.
Made in Canada model
Here in B.C. landlords have the right to bump rent up 2.9% every year.
But he says in Quebec, there’s no guaranteed right to do that – instead, landlords can argue for an increase, but if renters resist there’s an arbitration process.
“Rather than the whole deal automatically going in favour of the landlord, the landlord has to make a legitimate argument for why they get more money this year than they did last year.”
— travis lupick (@tlupick) February 10, 2016
And when it comes to renting the unit to someone new? There’s no automatic right to boost the rent on turnover.
Instead, it’s a negotiation – with landlords required to reveal the lowest rent paid by a previous tenant in the last 12 months.
Lupick says with a process like this in place, it begins to have an effect on the entire market.
No time soon
For starters, aside from activists, few people seem all that excited about it.
But more importantly, rent controls will likely see stiff opposition from owners because limits on rent can quickly make owning a rental seem like a bad investment.
That in turn can lead to fewer units built, or existing units under maintained.
For that reason, Lupick says even advocates like Larkin say the Quebec model should be thoroughly studied before it’s transplanted here.