Advocates for landlords, renters react to B.C.’s extended rental freeze

Advocates for landlords, renters react to B.C.'s extended rental freeze
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WatchBoth groups representing renters and landlords are critical of the province's decision to extend a rental freeze to the end of 2021. Mary Griffin has more.

The news of an extended rent freeze from the provincial government may be a relief to many, but others say there will be a price to pay.

The bill extends a freeze that began March 18 last year when COVID-19 restrictions began falling into place. The spokesman for B.C.’s organization representing landlords saw it coming, but still disagrees with the province’s decision.

“We’re certainly disappointed with that action,” said Hunter Boucher, director of operations, Landlord BC.  “We knew that this was likely to come, given that it was in the mandate letter for the housing minister. So, you know, was not necessarily a surprise. but you know it does have an impact on rental housing providers.”

But others, such as Doug King, executive director with Together Against Poverty Society, said extending the rent freeze by the government is not going far enough to help renters.

“So, it is time to stop talking about benefits, and rebates, and start talking about how we can actually get them lower in British Columbia. That’s the one thing the province has not really been able to do.”

According to a survey released by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation in January, Victoria’s vacancy rate is lower than Vancouver (2.6%), Toronto (3.4%), and Montreal (2.7%), the three largest metropolitan areas in the country.

READ MORE: CMHC report shows slight increase in Victoria rental vacancies

And the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment in Victoria ($1,507) is just behind Vancouver ($1,792), Toronto ($1,635) and Ottawa ($1,517).

As house prices rise, so do costs associated with owning them, Boucher said. Without being able to increase rent by the allowable amount, the gap narrows.

“Not having that increase for two years is definitely, you know, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for some people, for sure,” he said.

But King said too many people are paying more than they can afford in Greater Victoria.

“We know that housing rates and rent rates are far, far above what they should be the bare minimum. This is the bare minimum.”

The changes mean tenants can disregard any notice of a rent increase they’ve received that would have taken effect before Jan. 1.

Next year, rent hikes will be capped at the rate of inflation.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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