With the average price of renting a bedroom in Vancouver now said to have surpassed $3,000, a lawyer and tenant advocate in the city said tenants are experiencing “real fear.”
Robert Patterson of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre said the top concern he encounters is eviction under “false pretenses” by landlords who want to “reorient” their units and charge more rent.
“We don’t honestly have sufficient protection of their tenancies in the law right now,” he explained.
“Many tenants, if they were to face the loss of their home, they can’t afford anything in their community, even in nearby communities — so they’d be facing displacement not just from their city or town, but potentially from the province, and that’s a huge problem for so many people.”
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According to July data from Rentals.ca, an online search tool for rental units across the country, the average price for a one-bedroom in Vancouver has reached $3,013 per month, while a two-bedroom goes for $3,918. It’s the most expensive price in the country, followed by Toronto, then Burnaby.
Rentals.ca calculates the averages using monthly listings from its Network of Internet Listings Services, which includes primary and secondary rental markets, basement apartments, rental apartments, condominiums, townhouses, semi-detached houses, and single-detached houses. Its website states that properties listed for more than $5,000 per month, as well as short-term rentals, furnished suites, and single-room rentals are excluded from the calculation.
Its numbers skew higher than those released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation because of the diversity of units it does include, however, as opposed to calculating the average based on household expenditures on purpose-built rental apartments and rental townhouses alone.
The latest data, released this month, lists a one-bedroom apartment in Burnaby at $2,541 per month — 19.6 per cent increase from 2022. Vancouver’s one-bedroom cost represents a 16.2 per cent increase.
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While in Vancouver for a transit announcement on Monday, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the $3,000-figure baffled him and all working Canadians should be able to afford “a place to call home.”
“I don’t understand those young graduates who are paying back student loans are meant to find a place to live here,” the newly-minted housing minister said.
“The reality is we can’t expect the solution to our housing challenges to be that someone should be born into a rich family.”
Fraser pointed to Ottawa’s Housing Accelerator Fund — incentive funding for local governments that increase housing supply — as an example of its efforts to help bring rental costs down, as well as a variety of programs under the 10-year, $82-billion National Housing Strategy,
“The value of homes in Canada are subject to an extraordinary number of market forces,” Fraser said.
“Some of these measures I don’t expect to have a meaningful impact on the value of existing homes, but some of them could put a moderate pressure on different communities depending on what the plans for those communities are.”
The minister vowed to make “repeated trips” back to B.C. to continue working on the problem.
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British Columbia’s housing minister, Ravi Kahlon, acknowledged the “pressures” on Vancouver residents, and the “real challenge” of entering the market under current rates. He also said he has personally and repeatedly advocated to the federal government to have immigration numbers tied to housing starts so newcomers can be “successful” when they arrive.
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“We have more people coming here than we have rental units available,” Kahlon told Global News.
“We need more housing, we need to build faster, and that’s the work we’re doing with local governments right now, is urging them to change their processes.”
In April, the B.C. government revealed its four-point housing strategy aimed at making housing more affordable, committing $4 billion over three years and $12 billion over a decade.
The plan will change province-wide zoning laws to allow more townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and row homes, as well as make it easier and legal for people to rent secondary and basement suites. It will also offer forgivable loans for homeowners to build those suites below market rates to increase affordable rental supply more quickly, as well as implement a tax on the proceeds of house-flipping.
Kahlon has promised 4,000 new units of on-campus student housing, “thousands more social housing units,” and up to 10,000 new homes near public transit in the next 10 to 15 years.
On Tuesday, he also said more action is coming in the fall to bring short-term rentals back into the housing market. Rental increases, meanwhile, remain capped at two per cent.
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Patterson said the fabric of cities like Vancouver is at risk under the current rental rates.
“We’re getting to the point where we’re stretching so far, we’re risking with this a lot of fundamental things in our society — people being able to just live where they work, live in their communities, have any place to live at all, really,” he said.
“If we continue to treat housing simply as a for-profit investment, prices are going to keep going up because profiteers are going to continue to raise rents.”
Patterson said governments must support a “massive” build of non-profit, non-market co-operative housing, rather than continue to rely on private developers to create the housing that’s needed.
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