The BC Green Party became the first political party in the province to propose capping rent prices between tenancies in a bid to improve affordability.
While the details are still fuzzy, the Greens are essentially calling for a vacancy cap, which would ban landlords from raising rents by however much they like in between tenants, which is the current law.
The Greens’ proposal would extend B.C.’s existing annual rent cap, tied to the rate of inflation, to units even when tenants switch.
This year, that rate is set at 3.5 per cent.
Both sides weigh in
Without this proposed protection, the Greens say rents skyrocket every time a tenant changes, as landlords capitalize on B.C.’s low vacancy rate.
“In Victoria last year, properties that became vacant saw an average of a 40 per cent increase in rent,” said BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau on Tuesday.
“This is an unsustainable drive that is raising the affordability crisis for too many people,” she said.
Landlords, however, say a vacancy cap would discourage developers from building new rental suites, and wouldn’t be fair because owners have to deal with rising costs themselves.
“It’s not uncommon to see people living in their rental unit, because it’s rent controlled, for 10 plus years. So this proposal is suggesting that the rent for any new tenant coming into that unit after being occupied for 10 years should stay the same. That’s ridiculous,” said David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord BC.
More rental reform proposals
A few other reforms were pitched by the Greens on Tuesday, including nearly doubling the income eligibility cutoffs for the BC rental assistance program, and the shelter aid for seniors.
Right now, almost 27,000 people get between $25 and $855 a month through these programs.
Expanding them could add hundreds of thousands more recipients to the monthly financial aid programs.
While the chances of the BC Green Party winning the October provincial election and implementing these policies as government are extremely slim, putting the idea out there and seeing if the public rallies behind it is a political move that increases pressure on the NDP and BC United parties to adopt the idea, or the Greens may push for another minority government situation.
The next provincial election is set for Oct. 19, 2024.