Feds propose Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights, credit for on-time rental payments

Justin Trudeau has announced new protections for renters, including a new Canadian Renters Bill of Rights. The new measures will help, but the plan is still pretty thin on details. Monika Gul reports.

The federal government gave a tease of what’s to come in its 2024 Budget Wednesday, announcing measures for renters across the country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, explained the upcoming budget will propose the creation of new protections for renters, and new pathways toward homeownership.

“As part of our upcoming budget, we’re going to create a Canadian Renter’s Bill of Rights. It would create a national way a nationwide standard for lease agreements give renters a clear history of apartment pricing so they can bargain fairly and make sure they have more agency. We’re also going to launch a new legal aid fund that will protect tenants against unfairly rising rents, rent evictions, and bad landlords,” he said.

Trudeau said there are more renters in Canada than ever before, growing at double the rate of home buyers.

“Nearly two-thirds of young Canadians rent their homes, and they spend a greater share of their income on housing than other generations,” Trudeau explained. “And in cities like Vancouver, where we are today, this is even more true — this is the most expensive city to rent in the country.”

The government explained the budget will propose $15 million for the Tenant Protection Fund.

Trudeau shared that as part of the Liberals’ fiscal plan, renters would also get credit for their history of on-time rental payments.

“We’re going to amend the Canadian Mortgage Charter and call on banks, credit bureaus, and others to make sure that your rental history is taken into account in your credit score,” he said Wednesday. “This will make it easier to qualify for a mortgage, or even qualify you at a lower rate. And just think about all the other things that will come from having a better credit score — loans to help you start a small business for example.”

Considering the cost of renting across the country, Trudeau asked, “What could be a better demonstration that you’re a good investment? And what is a better investment than in you, in young Canadians?”

“You make up the largest share of our age population. You work hard. You’re creating, inventing, and developing incredible things that are building the future of Canada. You hustle, you are the heartbeat of the economy. And Canada’s success in the 21st century depends on you.”

Vancouver is the most expensive Canadian city to rent in. Although details are sparse, Landlord BC tells CityNews it’s largely supportive of the measures.

Advocates for renters also say more information is needed but the measures seem positive.

“It sounds good, as a vague statement on paper, it remains to be seen how it will actually play out, what do they consider rights? From a tenants union perspective, something we could consider essential would be the right to collectively bargain,” said Mariah Javadi with the Vancouver Tenants Union.

Robert Patterson, a lawyer and tenant advocate, says he hopes the government’s budget will be applicable to tenants’ needs.

“It would be good to see government make sure they’re getting a good look at what’s actually happening in the rental landscape, what are the greatest threats to tenants’ security and tenure, and making sure that if a baseline is set, it’s covering all of those aspects in some way.”

But the federal opposition says in a statement, in part: “Today’s photo op is just another set of meaningless measures that won’t result in building the homes Canadians need.”

It’s not clear when the new measures will be implemented, but they’re set to be in Budget 2024, which will be tabled on April 16.

While B.C.’s Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon says the proposed measures won’t solve the housing crisis, they could be a step towards real progress.

“This is one competent of many things we need to do, and so what I wanna see from the federal government with their budget, is a significant announcement of funding, because we will not solve the housing crisis without directly investing in non-market affordable housing for people,” Kahlon said.

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