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Rent increase cap misses the mark

More needed than just limiting amount landlords can increase rent
For Rent. Photo by Marc Kitteringham - Campbell River Mirror

John Horgan’s Sept. 7 announcement of new measures designed to make living in B.C. more affordable had me hopeful for a second.

But just for a second.

Since moving to this part of the Island, I’ve had really bad luck with rentals. I was living in a pretty comfortable spot last year. However, my landlords at the time decided to sell the property, and told me that it was “very likely” that the new buyers would like to keep me on as a renter.

Turns out they didn’t.

So, last fall I had to scramble to find a new place I could afford in a town with a really, really bad vacancy rate and super high rents. I did end up finding a place, it was much smaller, but still fit all of our needs. The rent was higher, but it was still barely in our price range. As a bonus, our landlords said that they wanted long-term tenants, and I made sure to ask them if they had any plans on selling the property.

They said no.

Then four months later, they changed their minds.

Therefore, for the last eight months, I’ve been living in fear of the same thing happening.

Despite the fact that I was told yet again that it was very unlikely that the new landlords wouldn’t want to keep us as tenants, they quickly hit us with the notice to vacate for “landlord’s own use of property.”

Now I’m moving again, and my rent is going up. Again.

Now back to Horgan. His announcement was to limit the allowable rent increases to two per cent per year. First of all, I thought that was already the case.

Second of all, that only applies to people who live in the same place year after year. Now despite my best efforts — and being a really really good tenant — I haven’t managed to do that in a very long time. Because of other people’s choices, my rent has gone up 56 per cent over the past two years.

Something has to give here.

I get the fact that landlords have a tough deal too, the thing is, I don’t think it should be up to private individuals to provide housing to people. The incentive to profit is too strong, and relying on individuals — who have also been hit hard by inflation and the other assorted financial goodies over the past few years — to keep rents at a reasonable place and operate at a loss is not fair either. Our culture is so steeped in the message that growth year after year is the only acceptable way forward that people only end up caring about themselves, and leave others behind.

The two per cent increase won’t be enough for landlords to keep offering their housing. Often these people are already operating at a loss, and this is just going to de-incentivize them from offering rental housing in the first place. Also, once the people in those units get evicted, they’re suddenly going to be like me, stuck in a situation where their already-precarious bank accounts are decimated by the cost of moving and higher rents.

What would be better is a cap on rental increases per unit, which stay the same even if people move out. But that would just make it less attractive to be a landlord. Instead of a solution that benefits everyone, the province has made one that hurts everyone.

Housing should not be a business, private or otherwise. It should not have profit as a motivation. It should be a right. The thing is, relying on individuals to fulfill that right, in a world where individuals are struggling and community bonds are failing is not a recipe for success.

The province should take a leaf out of past-governments’ books: public housing. Relying on the market has not worked, we can see that.

If we want to see change, we need more than a cap on allowable increases. We need something more substantial.

RELATED: North Island-Powell River MP introduces Right to Housing Bill

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