John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: A loophole that allows some landlords to exploit the tight rental housing market and raise rents beyond the legal limit could have been closed immediately, had Premier Christy Clark not cancelled the fall legislative sitting, says B.C. New Democrat leader John Horgan.

“Premier Christy Clark and her government have known for years that some landlords are using a loophole to hike rents beyond the legal annual increase of 2.9 per cent, yet they’ve done absolutely nothing to fix it. This loophole was created by the B.C. Liberals in 2002, and New Democrats and advocacy groups have long called for it to be closed,” said Horgan. “If Premier Christy Clark cared about B.C. families and affordable housing, it would have been eliminated years ago.

“If Christy Clark hadn’t cancelled the fall sitting of the legislature, we could have closed that loophole today. Many renters across B.C. will face rent hikes beyond the allowable limit because Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals aren’t here to do their job. Instead, Christy Clark is choosing to ignore the rental housing crisis to host party fundraisers and hold pre-election photo-ops.”

Recently, after finally acknowledging this issue, B.C. Liberal housing minister Rich Coleman told those faced with signing a fixed-term lease, which some landlords have used to hike rents by as much as 30 per cent, to just ‘look elsewhere’ for a place to live. Coleman also tried to downplay the problem, saying that he didn’t know how widespread it was.

“The Christy Clark government is completely out of touch with the affordability crisis that people are facing in the B.C. rental market,” said Horgan. “While the B.C. Liberals are out fundraising for their election campaign, families are living in campgrounds, students are living in cars and academic buildings, people are forced into bidding wars, and some renters are even being solicited for sex in exchange for housing.

“This is a problem with a simple solution: eliminate the vacate clause that forces tenants to choose between outlandish rent increases and eviction. People should be able to start a month-to-month agreement once any lease ends.

Another regulatory loophole in B.C.’s housing market allows unlicensed foreign realty companies to operate in British Columbia, and the only solution that the B.C. Liberal government has offered is to say that buyers should beware.

“Every time we turn around there’s another example of Christy Clark turning her back on the affordable housing crisis and doing absolutely nothing until political pressure forces her to act. That’s not putting B.C. families first. That’s putting Christy Clark first, as she looks after her donors and her own political career.”