Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon tackled the need for rent relief and what is being done to create more affordable rental housing from a provincial point of view.
Paddon was addressing the B.C. legislature on April 4 on the ways the province is “tackling affordability” on several fronts at once.
”When I think of relief for renters, I think of my neighbours in Chilliwack-Kent,” Paddon said in her private member’s statement. “I think of the Facebook posts that I see where people are looking for roommates or where people are looking for a place, because they’re struggling and they’re having a hard time.”
The strategy from Victoria has been focused on building up the supply, keeping the costs low, improving renters’ rights and creating on a renters’ rebate.
They’re still working on the policy development for the rebate, because “we need to get it right,” the MLA stated.
“There was a two per-cent cut from the maximum annual rent increase allowed in B.C. — a change that is currently saving families in B.C. about $1,000 a year from what it could have been without that cut,” Paddon said.
B.C. also announced a partnership with the federal government about a year ago with $517 million over 10 years to help people in need who are ineligible for existing rental assistance programs.
A loophole some landlords were using to circumvent rent controls was firmly closed, the MLA said.
“That added more than 18,000 units back into the rental market through policies like speculation vacancy tax.”
Changes to stop unlawful renovictions were enacted.
“There’s been a strengthening to the financial penalties for landlords who evict tenants in bad faith, and changes have been made that give tenants who must vacate four months notice, allowing additional time to find alternate housing.
“There’s the creation of a compliance and enforcement unit to investigate complaints of serious or repeat offenders in these areas, which can impose monetary penalties.
B.C. was one of the only provinces in Canada to provide direct support for renters during the pandemic, offering rent support in the early stages of the pandemic, a rent freeze in 2020 and 2021, an eviction ban and a repayment plan that gave people more time to pay unpaid rent.
“There are signs that things are improving,” Paddon noted.
“We’re also seeing an increase in rental units, backed by CMHC data, which can be attributed, in part, to government’s policies.”
But there is no doubt that even with all of these actions, the issue is not solved, she said.
“It’s a challenging topic, Madam Speaker, as I know like many in this chamber, I have close friends and family directly impacted by the cost of renting as well as the rising costs of so many things, which is why despite there being no magic wand, I am grateful that we are tackling affordability on so many fronts at once to offer as much relief as possible, to remove as many barriers and extra costs as possible, be it eliminating tolls or eliminating MSP premiums, reducing the cost of child care, removing interest on student loans, decreasing the cost of car insurance or increasing different kinds of income.
All of these ways of reducing costs add up to “real, everyday impacts,” she said
“We aren’t done, and I understand that the relief can’t come soon enough. I know that my team and I come to work every day focused on the issue of housing, of rental availability and costs, and all the opportunities we have to help with affordability so that British Columbians, my neighbours, can have an affordable place to call home.”
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