The 2018 Rental Housing Task Force (RHTF) was meant to “advise on how to improve security and fairness for renters and rental housing providers throughout the province." However, from its outset the consultation process did not take into account the inherent power imbalances between landlords and renters.
As a result, rather than improving fairness most of the recommendations put forward risk further tipping the scales in landlords’ favour.
In May of 2018, the VTU submitted 50 recommendations to the RTHF to change the BC Residential Tenancy Act. However, fewer than 12 of the VTU’s recommendations were addressed, and an even smaller number have been formulated in a way that its authors consider to be adequate. Unfortunately the RHTF appears to have lost sight of the fact that the housing crisis is a crisis for renters, not for landlords; the recommendations place more priority on a landlord’s “right” to the maximum possible profit than improving security of tenure for tenants.
[Images: Landlord feedback during Rental Housing Task Force's community forums, July 2018.
Property rights are in fact not “enshrined in the constitution”]
Vacancy control, a policy that would prevent limitless rent increases between tenancies, was the number one recommendation made by tenant advocates to combat renovictions. Without a policy to remove the profit motive for renovictions, landlords will continue to displace tenants under improper motives. Under the RHTF’s approach, recommendation 1 to end renovictions is directly contradicted by the failure to recommend real vacancy control at recommendation 10.
The RHTF report laments that the Residential Tenancy Act has not undergone a comprehensive review for many years, but its proposed changes to the act and the Residential Tenancy Branch processes will not result in meaningful change for tenants. Unless we reverse the burden of the eviction process to create a just cause mechanism, landlords will continue to harass tenants with repeat illegal and frivolous notices. Likewise, if the recommendations for increased penalties and enforcement are not handled with great care, we risk giving landlords even greater licence to apply pressure on low income renters.
Lastly, the recommendation of a publicly funded rent subsidy makes the RHTF position very clear: landlords and developers can continue to drive rent increases, entrenching the household debts of people in poverty and at risk of homelessness, and taxpayers will continue to pick up the bill.