In light of certain statements made this week in the media, The Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) thought it necessary to reiterate that the implementation of Vacancy Control —tying rent control to a unit, instead of a tenant— is the most critical improvement that can be made to the Residential Tenancy Act at this time to protect tenants.
Certain organizations have threatened to halt purpose built rental construction in British Columbia if Vacancy Control is to be implemented. In the face of such statements, it is the role of the Rental Housing Task Force to look at the facts, and in this case we believe a consideration of the facts will defuse the concerns behind such alarmist statements to the public.
Vacancy Control does not apply to newly constructed rental units. Developers will continue to set rents at whatever rates they wish in new rental housing developments. Rental housing construction starts are at record highs throughout the province, and will continue to be incentivized by high market rents and low interest rates. Vacancy control will be a negligible consideration in light of these conditions. This is evidenced in Manitoba, where vacancy control has had no demonstrable effect on rental housing starts. The implementation of vacancy control will not deter the development industry from continuing to introduce new rental supply, and such investments will continue to be highly profitable for the industry.
Additionally, there is no evidence that vacancy control will deter necessary maintenance. As you have already indicated on September 24th, your recommendations will expand the grounds on which landlords can apply for proportionate rent increases where they have undertaken necessary maintenance, similar to regimes in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. This process needs to be evidence based, fair and accountable in order to ensure that landlords can recoup expenses where necessary, while deterring the perverse incentive to evict long-term tenants that currently exists under the Act. Conversely, under the current provisions of the Act, the VTU has observed unscrupulous landlords actively draw a windfall benefit from the lack of maintenance of their buildings, which then require the displacement of tenants when long-overdue maintenance is finally undertaken.
Not only will vacancy control completely deter many existing abuses of the Residential Tenancy Act, it is a vital piece of policy in preventing the continued loss of affordable rental housing stock in Vancouver and throughout the province. Without vacancy control, other initiatives of the province to provide affordable housing, as well as those of municipalities and the federal government, will be in vain as they struggle to keep pace with the loss of existing affordable units.
For the reasons above, we believe that Vacancy Control is the most central component of a robust Residential Tenancy Act, as well as an important step forward in addressing the ongoing housing crisis. The measures you have already put forward to address the concerns of landlords are fair, reasonable, and appropriate in the circumstances.
We appreciate your hard work over the past months and we look forward to reviewing the report.
Vancouver Tenants Union