B.C. freeze on rent increases extended until July 2021

The housing policy has drawn mixed reactions from landlords and renters

There was a sigh of relief for renters in British Columbia as the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing decided to extend the rent freeze until July 10, 2021 as part of the Emergency Program Act and COVID-19 Related Measures Act.

In a news release on Nov. 9, the ministry announced that instead of the initial decision of lifting the ban on Dec. 1, it will be extended until July 10, 2021. The government of B.C. agreed to put rent increases on hold for landlords and renters who might be facing financial challenges in relation to COVID-19.

Some landlords support the government’s decision to help renters during the pandemic, but others are also struggling financially in dealing with property insurance and tax increases.

“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,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

This is set as an “interim measure” to provide renters financial security while a new cabinet is affirmed. The NDP government promised to provide more affordable rent and housing as part of their campaign platform during the election.

Although many British Columbians are happy with putting a freeze on rent increases, some have expressed their concerns about how it will affect the economy in the long run.

Clarissa Endozo is a student and part-time worker at a fast-food restaurant. She is renting an apartment in the south of Metro Vancouver and says the increased rent freeze has both positive and negative implications for B.C. residents.

“Some people who lost their jobs due to COVID don’t need to worry about paying high rent, but the government might find other ways to compensate for the loss one way or another,” she says.

“The government cannot do a rent freeze [while] increasing taxes because homeowners still have to pay their mortgages. The only way the rent freeze can be beneficial for everyone is not only by establishing ‘rent forgiveness,’ but also managing the tax increases as well,” she says.

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord B.C., also expressed concern during a recent interview with CBC News.

“The misperception is that what’s bad for landlords is good for renters,” he said.

“If our sector isn’t financially viable, if the regulatory environment isn’t conducive to investing and building new rental housing, unfortunately, it’s renters who ultimately suffer.”

He added that landlords are experiencing a decreased number of renters, and fewer international students are looking for housing. Many property owners are also facing difficulties in showing rentals to possible tenants due to health and safety protocols.

Landlords or renters who have any questions can contact the Residential Tenancy Branch at 1-800-665-8779 or send an email at HSRTO@gov.bc.ca.

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