FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 8, 2024
BCGEU calls for Vacancy Control, not more unaffordable rent hikes
While some B.C. renters are bracing themselves for another 3.5-per-cent rent-hike in 2024, those looking for a new home will be paying much more to stay in their communities, says the B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU), calling again for vacancy control measures.
According to the CMHC's January 2023 Rental Market Report, the asking price for vacant units in Vancouver, on average, exceed in-place rents by 43%, making housing even more expensive for those who are moving or have been displaced, and need a place to live. The BCGEU says this disturbing discrepancy is both a symptom of weak rental policy and an over-reliance on the private market, which has widened the divide between those who own and those who rent, making it harder and harder for working people to have stable housing.
"Vacancy Control would limit rent increases between tenants, which is a major cause of unfair evictions and displacement," says the BCGEU Vice-President Kari Michaels. "In many cases landlords make homes so unlivable that occupants have no choice but to leave, all so the landlord can convert the same $900-a-month suite into a $2,400-a-month one."
Michaels adds that the results of these unchecked rent increases negatively impact everyone: "Whether you are the person unfairly displaced, or you're a prospective renter coming in behind them - possibly a student leaving home for the first time, a new Canadian moving to B.C., a growing family seeking more space, or a worker relocating to a neighborhood that's closer to a job - everyone loses because the number and diversity of affordable homes dwindles. A 3.5% increase on in-place rents is daunting enough for workers, especially in the face of our inflationary crisis, but for your typical workers and families, market-rate housing is often completely out-of-reach."
Vacancy control would stop rents from rising as steeply as they have over the last decade by extending rent caps to the unit, not just existing tenants. "It's a common-sense protection that we need right now to stem the loss of affordable market rentals," says Michaels. "It's no different than how we need better protections against demovictions under the new transit-oriented development law to stop unfair displacement; both policies should be treated as emergency measures."
The BCGEU is also adamant that workers and their neighbours need more support to build and sustain a truly equitable and affordable housing landscape, which is why it's advocating for a 4-pronged approach, combining a Land Value Capture Tax (LVCT) and expanded inclusionary zoning with robust public housing, in addition to Vacancy Control. LVCT would deter speculation, eventually cooling the housing market, and provide government with the funds it needs to build and manage quality, affordable public housing. Meanwhile, the proposed inclusionary zoning policy would require 50% of the units in all new developments get an affordable-housing designation, where rent is locked at 30% of the tenants' income.
"Ultimately, we are striving for an environment where the corporate landlords and developers cannot own, flip and sell more people in B.C. out of their homes," says Michaels. "Our proposal unchains housing from the restrictive and volatile market we currently see, so that we can eventually decrease rents, increase the stock of quality affordable housing and ensure that people living and working here have quality homes, without having to sacrifice food, heat, internet, or winter boots for their kids just to keep a roof over their head."
For more information, please contact:
Celia Shea, BCGEU Communications Officer – [email protected]
The BCGEU represents over 85,000 workers from across the province, passionately fighting for a more affordable B.C. Together, they're pushing back against the cost-of-living crisis by winning better wages and breaking down barriers to important services for marginalized communities. In response to the escalating housing problem, BCGEU also launched the Affordable B.C. Campaign, where members and allies are uniting to advance safe, affordable housing for all workers and their neighbours.
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