Speculative investment in B.C. has made the province one of the most expensive places in the world to live. While various factors contribute to rising housing prices in Vancouver, the most troubling and underlying cause of our situation is that housing and property is being treated primarily as a financial asset rather than as a place to live. Our housing system and real estate market has become overpowered by a speculative purchasing environment and our current methods for regulation, planning and taxation have failed to manage the effects. The crisis is the result of three main factors:
- The influence of external investment capital in the province
- Increased mortgage lending and profit-driven financial institutions which are fueling the speculative frenzy
- Poor real estate regulations and land-use policies that create opportunities for private profit at the expense of the public interest
Our campaign’s plan for addressing B.C.’s housing and affordability crisis requires the following:
- Reform property taxes to target speculators and raise funds for affordable housing and infrastructure. This reform would require the following:
- Amending legislation to protect renters and better regulate real estate transactions
- Investing in new affordable public housing and infrastructure
While many of B.C.'s housing affordability problems are the result of poor policy choices, we propose eight concrete actions local governments can take right now to make things better. In addition, we propose four key measures the federal and provincial governments can take to help municipalities address the housing crisis.
As part of their efforts to make housing more affordable in the province, the BC NDP government put together a taskforce to look into changes that could be made to the Residential Tenancy Act to improve protections for renters. This task force spent much of June and July speaking to communities and accepting written submissions as part of their consultation.
As one of BC's largest unions, tens of thousands of our members are renters and will be directly affected by the changes this task force recommends. That's why we made a submission to this task force with recommendations that fall under the following three categories:
- Resourcing and reforming the Residential Tenancy Branch
- Reforming residential tenancy law and regulations
- Increasing the supply of affordable rental housing
This report argues that vacancy control is an effective and necessary policy tool for addressing the extreme housing affordability crisis facing B.C. renters. In effect, vacancy control ties rent to the unit and means landlords cannot hike the rent when a tenancy turns over.
Mainstream discussion has entrenched a viewpoint that argues rent regulation, and especially vacancy control, is harmful. A closer analysis of academic and policy literature suggests otherwise: there is in fact no consensus that rent control is bad policy, and there are significant limitations in the econometric methods used by opponents of rent control.
Instead, this study employs a political economy perspective to question some of the core assumptions held by today’s orthodox economists when modelling housing and land markets, including their failure to incorporate key social and political variables into their analysis. Drawing on research that uses diverse qualitative methods, descriptive statistics, and other approaches, this paper challenges five key development-industry myths that dominate current rental housing debates, namely:
1. The overall (lack of) supply of housing is the primary driver of the housing affordability crisis and that rent control deters investment in new supply;
2. Increases in supply lead to a positive filtering effect, whereby those who can afford new units will vacate their existing units for the benefit of down-market tenants;
3. Rent control deters rental housing maintenance and repairs;
4. “Mom and pop” landlords control a major share of the rental housing stock and are especially harmed by rent controls; and
5. Rent control is costly to implement.
This report examines past and present vacancy control policies in B.C., Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. from the 1970s onward and finds no evidence that tying rent to the unit had significant negative impacts on new rental housing supply. Instead, development industry behaviour has been shaped primarily by wider economic factors, such as investment cycles, inflation, global recessions, and federal housing and taxation policy.