Dylan McCullough/ Kelowna Now / September 15, 2018 (with quote from BCNPHA CEO Jill Atkey)
During a successful campaign to win B.C.’s provincial election, the BC NDP’s John Horgan continuously promised a $400 “renters rebate” if elected.
“Renters deserve a break too, especially with the skyrocketing rents we see today,” stated Horgan while on the campaign trail.
While the BC NDP’s official mandate never stated exactly when they would implement the rebate, after over a year in office renters have yet to see any cash in hand.
Last week, the provincial government approved a rent increase cap of 4.5% for next year, the largest increase since 2004 and the sixth consecutive year the maximum rate has increased.
According to B.C. Non-Profit Housing, Kelowna currently has roughly 17,000 renter households, with the average renter earning about $45,000 annually.
Of all renter households in the city, nearly half are spending more than 30% of their income on monthly rent, with 30% being considered the threshold for rent affordability.
“The numbers show that Kelowna already has a rental affordability problem and people are likely already struggling to make ends meet,” said Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing. “So an additional 4.5% is really going to put people in a situation where they are feeling additionally squeezed.”
Not all renters will be subject to the 4.5% hike, as not every landlord will increase their rent to the maximum, but the increase could be enough to impact Kelowna’s workforce.
“Local businesses are an important part of the conversation as well, in Kelowna restaurants, hospitality, healthcare, social services, retail and construction workers are the top jobs held by renters in the community,” explained Atkey.
“If they can’t make ends meet and they need to move elsewhere then your local businesses and economy are going to suffer.”
Conversely, landlords argue the rent hike is the minimum the province can do to offset the growing cost of property taxes, utility and insurance costs.
“We’re not insensitive to the fact renters are facing increased costs,” said David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC. “Landlords’ costs are increasing by more than what we’re allowed to hike our rent and it’s not sustainable if we don’t have the opportunity to replace those costs.”
Hutniak says the province’s housing crisis has been 30 years in the making, with a continuous lack of government-mandated rental purpose housing being the driving force.
“It’s more profitable and less risky to build condos and that is still true unfortunately,” explained Hutniak.
“This is a complicated issue, but the solution lies in building a more than adequate amount of rental housing.”