B.C. renters set to face biggest rent increase since 2004

B.C. landlords will be allowed to jack up rents by a maximum of 4.5 per cent in 2019 — the biggest increase since 2004.

Landlords will be allowed to hike rents by up to 4.5 per cent in 2019

The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area is $1,223, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The cost of rent in British Columbia is going up again in 2019.

B.C. landlords will be allowed to jack up rents by as much as 4.5 per cent in 2019 — the biggest increase since 2004, when it was capped at 4.6 per cent. 

It's the sixth straight year that the maximum allowable rent increase has gone up. In 2018, the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch set the rate at four per cent. 

It comes as Vancouver continues to grapple with a near-zero vacancy rate and sky-high rents.

'That's not going to be comfy'

Renters like Jennifer Ashton are worried about the constant increases.

"It looks like ... I'll have to take in a roommate — into a one bedroom," she said. "That's not going to be comfy."

Vancouver renter Jennifer Ashton says constant rent increases may force her to get a roommate. (CBC)

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area is $1,223 per month.

Under the allowable increase, a person renting an apartment at this price would pay an extra $55 per month, or $660 over the course of one year.

The CMHC data doesn't account for rentals that weren't originally built for the rental market, such as condos.

2.5-per-cent inflation

Landlords are allowed to increase rents once a year by two per cent, plus the inflation rate.

The inflation rate is calculated using the 12-month average percentage change in B.C.'s Consumer Price Index ending in July, which is 2.5 per cent.

Landlords must give tenants three-months' notice when increasing rents.

'Cancel the increase'

The Vancouver Tenants' Union has called on the government to freeze rents in the short-term and then only allow them to increase at the rate of inflation.

Sydney Ball, who speaks for the union, says the government has the power to change the equation used for the increase.

"So seeing the pressure on tenants and knowing that it already is a rent crisis — they knew when they took power in government," she said. "I really hope that they cancel this increase."

The NDP government has introduced some measures in the past year to help renters. 

It removed a clause in the tenancy act that allowed landlords to increase rates above the allowable rental increase limits to match rents within the neighbourhood. 

But the government has yet to introduce a $400 annual renter's grant that it promised in the 2017 election. 

"We've been working diligently since we formed government to address the idea of fairness and making sure that we have better protection for renters and ... good protection for landlords," said B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson. 

Robinson said the province is awaiting recommendations from its rental house task force in November before announcing new measures. 

Sydney Ball with the Vancouver Tenants' Union says constant rent increases are resulting in a rise in homelessness. (CBC)

Meanwhile Ball says if the increase remains and there are further ones in years ahead, there will be consequences in Vancouver.

"We do know as long as it gets more expensive and rents rise, homelessness goes up every single year, it's directly connected," she said. "So we're definitely looking to see more homelessness the more increases we see."

Read more from CBC British Columbia

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story cited an incorrect number for CMHC's average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver.
    Sep 08, 2018 1:23 PM PT

With files from The Canadian Press