B.C. rental market could see further squeeze due to rent freeze

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It seems the plans to keep rents in B.C. frozen until the end of the year may be having a trickle-down effect, leaving fewer rental spaces available.

A new survey from Insights West finds most B.C. residents — 68 per cent — support extending the rent freeze. Unsurprisingly, renters are much more in favour of the freeze, with 93 per cent saying so.

There’s even a high level of support among landlords, who are divided on the subject at 47 per cent for the idea and 47 per cent opposed.

“The financial hardship brought on by the pandemic is a major factor in the high-level support,” said Steve Mossop, president of Insights West. “If you look at the number of renters who had difficulties throughout the year in paying their rent, it’s about 40 per cent, so it’s a significant number. And the strong majority of residents across the province agree, very strongly, that the extension of the rent freeze is really needed to help renters who’ve been hit hard through the pandemic — that’s about 80 per cent.”

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However, there are many people who acknowledge and agree that extending the rent freeze in B.C. will have some consequences.

Mossop says 37 per cent of the general public surveyed agree it could impact housing supply.

“We’ve also got about 63 per cent who believe that it may be unfair that landlords have to bear the cost of this and that renters need to pay too,” he explained. “The other aspect that we had people respond to is that house prices and property costs are going up, property taxes. Renters should also pay their fair share, and that’s about 65 per cent of residents who agree with that statement.”

Mossop says the most surprising findings out of the Insights West poll are around how many properties aren’t being put on the rental market.

“You look at the 12 per cent of adults in B.C. who count themselves as a landlord, there’s a further nine per cent who own a property that’s suitable for renting that’s not being rented out,” Mossop told NEWS 1130, noting the main reason people gave — at 50 per cent — was that it’s a hassle and not worth it.

“But the other 30 per cent say that the single attributable reason is rent controls and rent freezes. So, this particular piece of legislation is perhaps adding to the limited supply that’s already out there,” he added.

B.C.’s NDP government brought in rent freezes in March of last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic impact it was having.

Set to expire in July, the province tabled legislation on March 1 of this year to extend the measure to the end of December.

“Certainly, we would prefer that this not be happening, but they recognize we have challenges and that we’re going to work with them to try and sort of mitigate some of those challenges, as we move forward,” David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, said following the announcement.

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