British Columbia

Task force on renting in B.C. launched by government

A task force has been appointed to scrutinize British Columbia's rental housing regulations and come up with solutions to address affordability.

'This is not something to put on the shelf,' says Horgan, who will receive the recommendations in the fall

Despite the sign, available apartments in Vancouver's West End are rare to find. Vacancy rates for the city are at 0.7 per cent, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (David Horemans/CBC)

The B.C. government is promising a newly launched task force to explore improvements to tenancy laws will deliver concrete results when it comes out later this year.

"We're gonna go out. We're gonna consult with people and we're gonna come back with solutions that will help people. This is not something to put on the shelf," said Premier John Horgan, who promised the three-MLA team would have broad latitude in its investigation. 

"Everything's on the table. We want to make sure we find the right balance."

The task force will be led by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who will also serve as the premier's advisor on residential tenancy and includes New Democrat Ronna-Rae Leonard and Green MLA Adam Olsen.

Recommendations will be made in the fall. 

Chandra Herbert says supply and affordability in the real estate market gets plenty of public attention, but the same crisis exists for renters and their voices need to be heard.

"When they call for help, they haven't received it. When they need help to face down an illegal eviction, they haven't got it. When they need help to deal with someone who's breaking the rules and potentially damaging their suite, they haven't always felt confident that their government has had their back."

He says both renters and landlords have not received the support they need when facing problems and disputes, and regulations can be improved to offer more security to all parties.

Horgan says the task force will consult with renters, landlords and municipalities before making recommendations to modernize tenancy regulations this fall.

Low vacancy across the province

The rental market in much of B.C. has been tight for years, with vacancy rates below one per cent in virtually all major population centres, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

It also measured the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver in 2017 at $1,552, the highest in the country. 

Dan Garrison, Vancouver's assistant director of housing policy, said there is a lot of older housing stock that needs to be updated, but the city has tougher rules than the province when it comes to redeveloping rental properties.

"We know that renters in the city are certainly feeling vulnerable to development pressure," Garrison said. "We are trying to strike a balance."

On Monday, the City of Surrey passed a new affordable housing strategy, the focus of which is to increase rental stock and strengthen protection for renters.

With files from The Canadian Press


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