BURNABY, B.C. (Coast Salish Territories) – The B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) today released Evaluating Prospects for Vacancy Control Policy in B.C.'s Housing Affordability Crisis, a comprehensive assessment of vacancy control policy (where rent control is tied to the unit rather than a tenancy agreement). The report finds no evidence that tying rent to the unit has had significant negative impacts on developing new rental housing supply. Instead, a lack of vacancy control represents a loophole in B.C.'s rent control laws that has allowed rents to rise between 10-23 per cent year after year since 2019 in major metro areas.
The union is calling on the provincial government to amend the Residential Tenancy Act and implement vacancy control as part of the solution to the housing crisis.
"Rising rents have been a key driver of housing inflation for over a decade, and this has become increasingly untenable for the one in three British Columbia residents who are renters," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "While the provincial government has taken important steps to help limit runaway rent increases during a tenancy, they have stopped short of regulating rents between tenancies. We cannot leave vacancy control off the table any longer."
The report tackles key myths about vacancy control, and rent control more generally, and outlines case studies of vacancy control policies in B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. from the 1970s onward. It also proposes seven recommendations – including the implementation of vacancy control as an "evidence-based social policy" rather than one that is determined based on purely economic grounds.
The union is also joined today by organizations from across the province gathering on the B.C. Legislature lawn to rally in support of vacancy control and other policy solutions needed to address the housing crisis. In attendance at the rally are groups representing organized labour, tenants, faith and anti-poverty organizations:
"Too many working people can't afford to live and raise their families in the communities they work in - and the spiraling cost of rent is a huge factor. Vacancy control not only helps to stop that upward spiral, but it removes one of the strongest incentives for landlords to pressure tenants to move out. For working families, that means lower costs and more stable homes." - Hermender Singh Kailley, Secretary-Treasurer, BC Federation of Labour
"The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition represents over 80 member organizations across B.C. that advocate for public policy solutions to end poverty, homelessness and inequality. Vacancy control is a crucial tenet of building a durable foundation for affordable housing throughout B.C., and is a part of our Blueprint for Justice policy platform. B.C. needs vacancy control now – tackling the housing crisis requires strong measures, and we need to see government action to make affordable housing a human right again." - Rowan Burdge, BC Poverty Reduction Coalition Provincial Director
"MVA is a coalition of labour, faith, community and nonprofit groups in the Lower Mainland representing over 100,000 people that come together to work on shared goals that make Metro Vancouver a more just place to live. We believe that housing and homes are basic human rights, and that vacancy control will aid in turning this right into a reality for those of us living in one of the most expensive and beautiful places in the world." - Metro Vancouver Alliance
"Our current rent control laws reward bad landlords who continuously kick their tenants out just so they can jack up the rent. Every week, the Community Legal Assistance Society receives calls for help from tenants facing eviction based on false or flimsy pretenses by landlords trying to get around the rent control limits. This harsh reality will continue until the government limits the rent increases that landlords can impose, not just during a tenancy, but also when new tenants are brought in." - Danielle Sabelli, Community Legal Assistance Society
"Since 2018 our union has been telling this government that real rent control (vacancy control) is the only way to remove the financial incentive to evict tenants, and for over five years this government has refused to act. Metro Vancouver is the eviction capital of Canada, and tenants are organizing with their neighbours to keep themselves and their homes safe. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that working people can get together and demand a better deal from their landlords, and through this freedom of association, tenants can collectively bargain to demand vacancy control in their buildings. While we continue to demand this government take action, it's important for us to fight for the right of tenants to collectively bargain in the face of increasing crackdown on tenant organizing by the landlord class."- Mazdak Gharibnavaz, Vancouver Tenants Union.
"The Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre firmly believes that implementing vacancy control is necessary to protect renters in B.C. at a time of unprecedented crisis. Thousands of tenants contact us every year with requests for legal assistance when their landlords threaten to evict them for "landlord use" or no-fault evictions unless they agree to a higher rent increase than allowed by law. We hear so many stories about the insecurity people feel in their housing – all driven by the profit motive that fuels our eviction epidemic. Tenants' security of tenure in their homes and their fundamental human right to housing must take precedent over investor returns on real estate. Vacancy control will remove the incentive to evict people and protect tenants' right to housing as an important part of addressing the affordability crisis." - Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre
"I represent GVAT (Greater Victoria Acting Together), a coalition of caring Victoria organizations representing faith groups, unions, service providers, environmental and other non-governmental organizations. As part of our ongoing work on affordable housing, we lobby for provincial policies that meet the critical needs of tenants. Too many families and individuals are being evicted to avoid the type of rent control that dies when they move out. We cannot solve homelessness until we can keep our community safely housed. That is why we support real rent control - vacancy control." - Lynn Beak, Greater Victoria Acting Together
The report was commissioned by the BCGEU as part of its Affordable BC campaign which proposes bold policy solutions to address the housing crisis for working class people. A copy of Evaluating Prospects for Vacancy Control Policy in B.C.'s Housing Affordability Crisis can be found here: https://www.affordablebc.ca/vacancycontrolreport
Since 2017, the BCGEU has worked with experts to research and develop extensive housing policy solutions that can be implemented immediately by the province, and all levels of government to address the housing crisis. Visit www.affordablebc.ca to learn more.
The BCGEU is one of the largest unions in British Columbia, with over 85,000 members in almost every community and economic sector in the province.
For more information contact [email protected].