B.C. party leaders make big promises for Vancouver renters on the campaign trail
It’s one of the most important issues for voters as they head to the polls or mail in their ballots across British Columbia, especially for young people.
“This is their number one concern – can I stay in this place? Can I stay in this city? Can I stay close to my family and build my life in this community?” says Mario Canseco, president of Research Co.
For 18 to 34 year olds, housing poverty and homelessness are the big issues this election, according to a recent Research Co. survey.
“It’s extremely important,” said one woman who spoke with McLaughlin On Your Side on Robson Street. “I don’t think anyone who works in Vancouver can hardly afford to live there right now, as a renter.”
Mazdak Gharibavaz with the Vancouver Tenants Union says the housing affordability problems that were already facing renters in the city have been exacerbated by the pandemic’s job losses.
“We see folks from across the income spectrum falling into rent debt because they had income and then it was immediately taken away,” he says. “A lot of folks are underwater – 15 per cent of rental households across the province. Renters are looking for bold, systemic change.”
And the candidates have taken notice, making campaign promises aimed at renters.
In their platform, the BC Liberals are taking a broader approach, promising to “implement tax and permitting changes to boost housing supply, including rental and market housing.”
They’re also committing to “ensure no net loss of rental units in real estate redevelopment projects.”
The NDP, on the other hand, are making more specific promises, including freezing rents until the end of next year, and after that, making permanent limits on rent increases tied to the rate of inflation. There’s currently a freeze in place until December, but the NDP announced last month that landlords would be able to implement increases starting in 2021.
The party says it will also introduce an “income-tested renter’s rebate of $400 a year for households earning up to $80,000 annually that are not already receiving other rental support,” and build more supportive housing.
Meanwhile, the Greens have also proposed a rental supplement “to close the gap between affordable rent and what renters are actually paying,” which includes introducing a “means –tested grant that applies to low and moderate income earners who are paying more than 30 per cent of their income in rent.” The party also plans to establish a fund to help non-profits acquire and maintain affordable housing.
But Gharibavaz says help is needed now.
“This is the worst crisis of renters’ lives,” he says. “What we need from any government is to understand that renters are struggling, and governments need to step up to protect them.”
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione