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Former Vancouver Island business owner wants rate cap on commercial rent increases

Statistics Canada says rents for commercial space in B.C. have grown the second most in the country
OakTree Naturals owner Aman Jiwani packs up shop before moving to a space on Hillside Avenue. (Black Press Media file photo)

High real estate costs are hurting not just residential renters but businesses renting commercial property too.

Residential tenants usually have more protection – the province announced in September a two per cent rent increase cap – but no such protection exists for commercial tenants like small businesses.

Rents for commercial space in B.C. have grown the second most in the country, according to Statistics Canada’s commercial rents services price index (which compares rents pre-Covid in 2019 with commercial rents now).

B.C.’s index score of 108.4 as of December 2022 puts it above the national average, second highest to Nova Scotia.

“The cost of doing business in B.C. continues to rise,” executive director of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce Julie Lawlor said in a statement. “While landlords are businesses too, significant commercial rent increases well above inflation are not sustainable for small businesses.”

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OakTree Naturals owner Aman Jiwani has moved out of Langford after his landlord threatened heavy rent increases. Back in October, when his five-year lease was up for negotiation, his landlord said rents would be increasing by 86 per cent due to market rates. Jiwani had run his business out of the Goldstream Avenue plaza for the past five years and had planned to do so for many years to come, but couldn’t afford the rent hike.

Jiwani said a cap on rent increases for small businesses that are renewing their leases could help.

“If we were a new tenant coming in, and that was the market value, then I would understand that’s the market value, but as an existing tenant providing a service to the community … we’ve got pretty good relations with a lot of community members. They’re the ones who are losing out also.”

In an interview with Black Press Media, Minister of Jobs and Economic Development Brenda Bailey said the province was meeting with business leaders to consider supports for businesses, but couldn’t comment on whether they would include a cap on commercial rent increases.

“The best programming comes when industry and government collaborate,” she said.

-With files from Wolfgang Depner

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