B.C. renters can expect to shell out more than ever before for a roof over their heads next year.
The province’s maximum allowable rent increase for 2019 will be 4.5 per cent, up from four per cent this year.
B.C. rent hikes are based on a long-standing formula, which allows rent to climb by two per cent plus inflation. The Consumer Price Index for B.C. showed inflation at 2.5 per cent up to the month of July.
The 4.5 per cent hike is the highest B.C. has seen since 2004, when rents climbed 4.6 per cent.
Based on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s most recent assessment of rent for a Vancouver two-bedroom apartment — $1,550 per month — the hike would equate to an extra $837 per year.
“The four per cent already was just eating into regular renters’ pockets every year,” said Sydney Ball with the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU).
“Being above the inflation rate means there’s always kind of a profit directed towards landlords, and tenants can kind of expect that all of their spendable income can get spent more and more on rent every year, so I’m angry.”
The NDP government established a rental housing task force earlier this year to focus on tenant and landlord issues, and Ball said the VTU has pitched the idea of a temporary rent freeze, followed by a change to the rent hike formula holding increases to the rate of inflation.
Asked about amending that formula, Housing Minister Selina Robinson provided an emailed statement.
“Our Rental Housing Task Force spent a lot of time this spring and summer listening to people’s frustrations and their ideas on ways to further improve fairness, security and affordability,” wrote Robinson.
“The task force will be sharing their recommendations later this year, and the issue of annual rent increases and rent control is part of their review.”
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Robinson declined to comment on the status of the $400 annual renter’s grant the NDP promised in its 2017 election campaign.
But Ball said tenants don’t have time to wait for action on rent hikes, arguing that people on fixed incomes simply don’t have the extra money to pay a higher rent.
“I think now is the time for action from the B.C. government if they want to prove that they actually understand the housing crisis is a crisis for tenants and the homeless, and not a crisis for property owners and landlords,” she said.
“Something like the 4.5 per cent increase is so obviously wrong that it shouldn’t be hard for them to take action immediately.”