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Victoria wants B.C. to cap rent increases for vacant units

City asks rest of Island for support as price increases for vacant units outpace inflation
Victoria city council is looking for the province to fill in regulation gaps in the rental market. (Black Press Media file photo)

Greater Victoria’s renters are best to stay put.

That’s because real estate investors continue to inflate the price of vacant rental units, a situation that has prompted the City of Victoria to call on the province to clamp down on unregulated sections of the rental housing market.

The tenant turnover rate continued its decline in most Greater Victoria municipalities in 2020, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. That coincided with a six-year period where unregulated rent increases for vacant units pushed the region’s average rental price significantly higher, with rising prices outpacing the inflation rate – to which provincially allowable rent hikes are tied.

According to the CMHC, the average price being asked for a vacant rental was $39 more than that of an occupied unit in 2014. By 2020, that gap had grown to $356.

It’s an issue the City of Victoria’s renters’ advisory committee hopes the province will address by exploring rent increase controls for vacant units. Such regulations already exist for occupied units.

B.C.’s pandemic-derived rent freeze, which took effect in March 2020, expired at the end of 2021, allowing landlords to raise tenant payments by a maximum of 1.5 per cent this year.

A motion brought to council recently by Coun. Sarah Potts, with recommendations from the advisory committee, stated that having no controls on vacant rentals is making housing less attainable for B.C. workers.

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“This is creating barriers to attracting and retaining workers, damaging the health of our local economies, and putting increasing pressure on a housing continuum which already has challenges generating housing options affordable to people who live and work in our communities,” the motion said.

Council passed a resolution encouraging the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities and Union of B.C. Municipalities to advocate for the province to explore a vacancy control policy that would limit rent increases between tenancies.

Coun. Geoff Young was the only one opposed, saying such a policy would impact small-scale landlords.

“The idea that we are not going to be discouraging people from being landlords is ridiculous,” he said. “We’re telling people we’d like you to have suites in your house, we’d like you to have a garden suite – but if you do it we’re going to do everything in our power to make your life a living hell. I just think we are totally going in the wrong direction.”

Two similar advocacy request resolutions passed, including one that would call on the province to develop an acquisition strategy and grant program to allow non-profit housing providers to purchase and repair aging rental stock as a way to maintain subsidized housing. The third asks the B.C. government to reinstate legal aid funding for tenancy issues.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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