BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson is being criticized for being “out of touch” and showing his “true colours” for comments he made on Wednesday about renters.
Wilkinson — who represents Vancouver-Quilchena, one of the wealthiest ridings in the province — referred to renting as “a fact of life that’s a rite of passage” saying his time as a renter was “challenging at times but it was fun.”
“It was part of growing up and getting better. We’ve all done it. It’s kind of a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable,” Wilkinson said in the B.C. legislature on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Wilkinson clarified his remarks, explaining that he rented for close to two decades and moved close to a dozen times.
“I know what it is like to have unstable housing,” he said.
Wilkinson said the point he was trying to make is that more needs to be done to address the shortage of rental units in the province.
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“Let’s be clear, we need to have an ample supply of rentals, both co-ops, market housing and subsidized rentals, because many people in this province find themselves unable to enter the housing market as owners,” Wilkinson said.
“As long as we have inefficient supply of housing we are going to have a housing crunch and we need to address that with faster municipal housing.”
Wilkinson added that renting is part of life and made reference to younger people who often rent after university.
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“It is an unstable time of life in your early 20s and you hope to get it settled down and move on in life, and that is part of growing up,” said Wilkinson.
But most people didn’t see Wilkinson’s comments as a call for more units. Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the Liberals are showing their “true colours” and that renters across the province are “really struggling.”
“We started as soon as we got elected to clean up the messes the B.C. Liberals made,” Robinson said. “What we heard yesterday is that the B.C. Liberals are really out of touch.”
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The B.C. government says there are 1.5 million renters in the province. The B.C. government promised a $400 renters’ rebate, which is yet to come to fruition. Robinson says the province plans on putting it in place by the end of the four-year term.
Wilkinson also used his time in the legislature to speak about the rebate.
“What this government has done is try to pander to renters with their $400 renters’ rebate, which suddenly vaporized,” he said.
“There’s no sign of it two years into their mandate. Nothing has been done. They’ve put all kinds of restricted caps on the behaviour of landlords around changing rents, long-term leases and renovation of apartments. The net effect is that people are getting out of the landlord market.”