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B.C. Greens seek change to rental cap for landlords between renters

Furstenau’s party Tuesday calls on government to raise various support thresholds for renters
BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau Tuesday called on government to take several steps to help renters. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)

The BC Greens say it’s time that the province correct government policies that are “dramatically weighted toward homeowners.”

Leader Sonia Furstenau, deputy leader Lisa Gunderson and House Leader Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, announced a trio of housing policies earlier this month in Victoria.

“People who rent in B.C. are faced with a deepening crisis,” Furstenau said. “They need more support from this government…it’s time to shift the focus from housing as a commodity to housing as a right. Every British Columbian deserves to have a secure and affordable home.”

While Furstenau said that her party will come out with a more “fleshed-out housing platform” in the spring, the measures announced Feb. 6 offer immediate relief. Otherwise, B.C. runs the risk of losing human potential as people will looking for cheaper housing elsewhere in Canada.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the more than 1.5 million renters in this province are incredibly important people,” Olsen said. “Their security, their ability to attain sustainable, affordable housing is critical to well-functioning on this province.”

The first proposed measures calls for an increase in the household income threshold for the Rental Assistance Program for low-income families with at least one child, as well as the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters for low-income seniors.

The assistance program would increase from $40,000 to $70,000 across B.C. The threshold for single SAFER recipients in the Lower Mainland would go up from $30,000 to $45,000; and $33,000 to $50,000 for couples. Single SAFER recipients elsewhere in B.C. would see their threshold rise from roughly $29,300 to $45,000 while couples would see their threshold increase from $31,992 to $50,000.

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While the rental rate protection program currently prevents landlords from raising the rents of existing tenants beyond 3.5 per cent, it does not cover new tenants in between vacancies.

This “glaring gap” as Olsen called it, has allowed landlords to raise rents.

“In Victoria last year, properties that became vacant, saw an average of a 40 per cent increase in rent,” Furstenau said. “This is an unsustainable drive that is raising the unaffordability crisis for too many people.”

BC Greens also expressed concerns about the practice of clawing back SAFER benefits due to increases in federal benefits like Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement.

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Ahead of the upcoming provincial budget in mid-Februrary, Furstenau and Olsen argued that more needs to be done to create more purpose-built rental housing.

“We have let the market-place really shape the conditions that we’re in,” Furstenau said, adding that the feds and province have failed to make the necessary investments over the last four decades to create a “counter-weight against that unfettered market place.”

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said in statement his government has made “several significant changes” to provide relief to renters in B.C., including addressing the issue of illegal renovictions, strengthening penalties for breaking the law and providing province-wide coverage of rent bank services, among others.

“Recognizing the significant pressures renters are facing, we are full steam ahead to create even more new rental supply to help make housing more affordable – both by building new units and taking actions like expanding the speculation and vacancy tax to new communities, bringing in new restrictions on short-term rentals, and eliminating strata rental bans, which have opened up thousands of existing vacant units for rental,” he said.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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