Advocacy group calls for cap on rent hikes for new residential tenants

Together Against Poverty Society is advocating for a vacancy control system

Together Against Poverty Society executive director Doug King | Photo: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

Property owners across the province scrutinize assessments this time every year with the annual release of data at the beginning of January. Left out of that process are the many thousands of renters who can not get a foothold in the housing market and are just hoping to find or hang onto a place to rent at a reasonable rate.

That’s why the Together Against Poverty Society is advocating a vacancy control system.

Under its proposal, when one tenant leaves a unit, the rent would remain the same, subject only to the allowed two-per-cent annual increase. It would bar landlords from setting a new rate at what the market can bear, which is permitted now, said Doug King, TAPS executive director.

“Vacancy control slows the increase of property values over time, because you are no longer able to just charge as the market can bear every time,” King said.

It is time to change a system that allows landlords to significantly raise rates between tenants, he said.

“We need to start looking at regulation of the market. … It is crippling our society.”

People will find themselves in “total desperation” by paying high rents to avoid being without a home, he said.

“We deal with so many people day in and day out, they are just panicked because if they have a good situation with a decent rate of rent, the fear of losing it is just so strong because you go backwards so quickly right now.”

It used to be relatively easy for families to enter the rental housing market but that is not necessarily the case anymore, he said.

Competition is tough for desirable rental homes.

Those who come out on top are more likely to have more money and therefore have the ability to pay more without having more people living with them, he said.

In the city of Victoria alone, there are 29,765 renters compared with 19,455 owners, Statistics Canada said in 2021 census data.

Tenants may pay for increases in property taxes through their rent, meaning that the tax rate can affect renters, King said.

Times Colonist