B.C. extends rent freeze until July 2021 due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — B.C. landlords won’t be able to raise rent prices until at least next summer, after the B.C. government extended its pandemic-related freeze until July 2021.

The province announced the extension Monday. Tenants are being told to disregard any notices of rent increase given after Mar. 30.

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“We know many renters are still facing income loss and even the slightest increase in rent could be extremely challenging. For that reason, we are extending the freeze on rent increases to provide more security for renters during the pandemic,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson writes in a statement.

The freeze originally came into effect in March when the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic and was set to expire Dec. 1.

The announcement came the morning after the final vote count of the provincial election was completed, cementing a solid majority for John Horgan’s party.

‘We only have one source of revenue, and that’s rent’

David Hutniak with Landlord BC says the announcement isn’t a shock for his sector, given that during the campaign the New Democrats promised renters a freeze through the end of 2021.

“Obviously we’re concerned, but we’re not surprised. and we’re going to have to as a sector look at how we go forward here over the next couple of months, obviously, there’s going to have to be some belt-tightening,” he says.

“We understand that renters have faced huge challenges during the pandemic but so has our sector, and clearly we’re still in some pretty challenging times here with the pandemic for both renters and landlords.”

RELATED: B.C. tenants, landlords disappointed with plans for renters affected by COVID-19

The ongoing rent freeze is just one way the pandemic has affected what Hutniak calls the “rental housing ecosystem.”

International and domestic students aren’t renting like they used to since post-secondary schools moved to mostly online learning, property taxes and insurance have gone up, complying with safety and cleaning protocols has added additional expenses, and some landlords have seen tenants accumulate rent debt or abandon their suites because they’ve lost jobs or had their hours cut. The situation is particularly strenuous for smaller landlords — those who for example rent out a basement suite in their home — since losing out on rental income can put their mortgage and housing in jeopardy.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty in the broader economy let alone our sector,” Hutniak notes.

“We only have one source of revenue, and that’s rent and those increases are important to our sector. By the same token, we also understand the provincial government is in a really tough bind here. They have to make some decisions, we don’t necessarily agree with all their decisions all the time, but we aren’t entirely surprised.”

Hutniak hopes some of the other promises made during the campaign will come to fruition soon. For example, a $400 rebate for renters, and subsidies for people moving pout of supportive housing and into market rentals would both infuse a bit more cash into the sector.

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