September 13, 2018 11:12 am
Updated: September 14, 2018 12:17 am

‘Everything on the table’ as Rental Task Force considers changes to rent increase model

Tenants who are struggling with Metro Vancouver's rental housing crisis are demanding the B.C. government cancel its allowable rent increase of 4.5% for 2019. Ted Chernecki reports.

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The province’s Rental Housing Task Force is considering making changes to the formula used to determine how much landlords can increase rents every year. The task force was put together in April, chaired by NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.

“We are looking at the rent increase model. Of course, I have heard people’s concerns. I have heard landlords’ concerns on the other side of the issue,” said Chandra Herbert.

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“We are trying to find a way to balance the need to maintain properties. We don’t want to lose any rental but we also don’t want people to be gouged.”

READ MORE: B.C. tenants to see the highest rent increase in 15 years

Rent hikes in B.C. are determined by 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 province’s maximum allowable rent increase for 2019 will be 4.5 per cent, up from four per cent this year.

The 4.5 per cent hike is the highest B.C. has seen since 2004 when rents climbed 4.6 per cent.

WATCH: Possible changes to B.C. rent hikes

The provincial government has been criticized over the last week for allowing the rent cap to go up without addressing the issue. One of the suggestions has been to get rid of the automatic two per cent cap every year and just tie rent changes to inflation.

“We have looked at Ontario where it is just inflation and you can apply for increases for major renovations. And Manitoba does the same thing. Of course, there are other models like B.C. or Alberta where they can set the increase at anything they want.”

WATCH HERE: Some B.C. renters could face the largest rent increases in more than a decade next year

“Everything is on the table so far. The task force hasn’t finished our report.”

Landlords are not required to increase the rent by the maximum amount every year.

READ MORE: BC NDP’s $400 yearly renters’ grant will come in next four years, premier pledges

The B.C. NDP heavily criticized the B.C Liberals for not doing enough to address affordability for renters and promised before coming into power to put in place a $400 renters’ grant for all renters. But the government has not yet introduced the grant.

“We committed to delivering it over the life of our government and we will do that,” said Housing Minister Selina Robinson.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver does not support the grant. Green Party MLA Adam Olsen is one of the three members of the rental task force.

“Anybody who has followed the housing markets knows that if you just give everyone $400 all that happens is that the prices go up and market absorbs the $400,” said Weaver. “That is not good public policy.

READ MORE: Vancouver rents stop growing, listings spike amid new taxes and renter protections: data

“What we would have like to have seen is the committee that has been struck to actually make recommendations on rental policy to have reported out sooner rather than later so we are not having a 4.5 per cent increase.”

The task force has been meeting every day during the annual UBCM conference in Whistler, where housing affordability is one of the key issues on the mind of local government leaders. Chandra Herbert says the task force is still going through the recommendations and says there are “hundreds, if not thousands” of ideas that were brought forward by the public and stakeholders.

“There are recommendations about what we should do around evictions, ‘renovictions,’ rent increases, about making sure landlords can maintain properties,” said Chandra Herbert. “Now we are just working our butt off so we can get in to the premier, to the housing minister so we can so we can see changes.”

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