How to Solve Vancouver’s Rental Housing Crisis?

The Vancouver Affordable Rental Housing Crisis! This term is thrown around like a football in the media almost daily, and for those living in BC’s Lower Mainland, you can’t have a conversation with someone without this subject popping up.

This article is not about whether or not Vancouver’s lack of affordable rental stock is actually a “crisis” or not…I’m going to save that hot topic for another day.

This article is about what could actually be done to solve the “Vancouver Housing Crisis.

What has the Government done so far to solve Vancouver’s Rental Housing Crisis?

Well, since it’s such a hot button with voters, all levels of Government have gotten involved in this one and flexed their Bureaucratic muscles.

The Feds have instituted the “mortgage stress test”, making it tougher for Buyers to stretch their dollars. While not specifically targeting Vancouver, let’s face it, this was primarily designed to cool down the hot Toronto and Vancouver housing markets.

The Provincial NDP’s have thrown their hat in the ring as well by introducing the Speculation Tax, as well as The Foreign Buyers Tax.

On a local front, the City Government has introduced short-term rental rules as well as the Vacancy Tax for homes that are not rented out and left vacant.

While all of these sound great, and are sure to win votes, the reality is that they don’t do much to solve the “crisis” at hand.

How to actually solve the affordable rental housing crisis?

Simple. Change the Strata Property Act to prevent older Strata buildings built prior to 2010 to pass bylaws restricting rentals. Many older buildings across the lower mainland have severe restrictions on how many rentals are allowed. These are generally older buildings that investors find attractive. And since these buildings are generally older and in many cases less expensive, they would rent for more affordable rates.

As an example, a new one bedroom strata condo in Yaletown with no rental restrictions might rent for $2300.

Now an older one bedroom condo in the West End, built in the 80’s, and located inside a building with rental restrictions might rent for $1800, but maybe only 3 or 4 of the suites can ever be rented out at any given time, thus severely restricting that affordable supply.  

So why don’t they remove rental restrictions from strata buildings?

For the Provincial Government to make this change would ultimately ruffle a lot of feathers! It would be a media feeding frenzy, and not in a positive sense. This would costs them votes, so is very unlikely to ever happen. But in theory, this change would make more of a difference in opening up affordable rental stock than just about any other change that they could make. Of course politics is all about optics, and they would rather make changes that look good but don’t cost votes, such as the foreign buyers tax or vacancy tax.

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