With renters caught in the midst of B.C.’s housing crunch, the provincial government is looking for ways to help tenants and at the same time, landlords.
The province’s Rental Housing Task Force stopped by Nanaimo this week for public engagement as part of a 10-city tour this month. A meeting was held Wednesday night at Christ Community Church.
The bipartisan task force is reviewing provincial tenancy laws and will prepare a report with ideas for potentially improving and modernizing existing laws.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End and chairman of the task force, said one of the problems right now is that renters are getting stuck in bad situations because of a lack of options.
“It’s easy to jack up rents when there’s no supply, because people will pay it, because otherwise they’re homeless,” he said. “I think we also need to recognize that more supply of housing – just so that landlords have to compete for renters – would be a much better situation to be in. We’re not there now. We’re far from there now. But I think that’s a direction we’ve got to go in, because otherwise we’re always going to be dealing with this issue of scarcity.”
Chandra Herbert said he’s heard different sides, about landlords who allow their buildings to fall apart and who find ways to gouge with rent increases, but also about tenants who know how to con landlords and skip out on rent. The province has announced new funding to try to expedite the process on tenancy disputes, and also to create a compliance unit. According to a press release, $6.8 million has been put toward those two initiatives.
The task force, by touring the province, will see how the rental market differs from city to city, but there will be some similarities, too, Chandra Herbert said.
“We haven’t had new rental built in most communities since the early ’80s; meanwhile, our populations have grown, land values have gone through the roof,” he said. “And so a lot of people who used to want to or think that they would buy are now renting, and particularly young people [are] coming to terms that they’ll probably be renting for the rest of their lives if what has happened continues.”
The task force is tackling specifically the tenancy laws, while related challenges around housing – including affordable and social housing – and poverty reduction are outside the task force’s mandate, but remain government priorities, he said.
“In some cases, the residential tenancy act and the manufactured home park act are really not the right vehicles to address some of the issues. Sometimes it’s a poverty issue…” Chandra Herbert said. “It is a real challenge, because a lot of the wider social issues end up showing up in the renter-landlord relationship.”