The housing crisis continues to impact millions of British Columbians.
In recent weeks, I have asked the BC NDP government how they are going to address the crisis in the housing market. Today, I inquired about the out-of-control rental market.
The problem is growing quarter-over-quarter and now we see rental listings of one-bedroom apartments in Vancouver for over $2100. Vancouver is not alone, the crisis is impacting nearly every community in British Columbia.
The BC NDP Ministers have responded to our questions about housing in a couple of ways. Firstly, they remind us that they are not nearly as bad as the Liberal government before them. Once they have attempted to establish that point, they refer to all the housing-related programs they have put in place over the past four years.
I do appreciate the modest steps the BC NDP government has taken but they fall well short of what is needed. Millions of British Columbians are feeling overwhelming stress as a result of the cost of their housing and the lack of security they feel in their housing. In the coming weeks, the BC Green Caucus will continue to press the provincial government on how they intend on addressing the housing crisis.
B.C. has the highest rent in the country. In fact, a report published in October found that B.C. had the highest quarter-over-quarter change in average rent. Rent increased 7.2 percent over the last quarter. The results are in the listings.
In Vancouver in October, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment was $2,155 per month. These members impact people. People are spending so much on rent that they’re unable to save up or to pay off student debt. They can’t find housing near work or their families. The constant worry is having negative health effects. Researchers call this housing-affordability stress, and it’s exacerbating mental health challenges. All of this is because rent is out of control.
Does the minister realize just how difficult it is for millions of British Columbians to pay rent?
Hon. D. Eby:
Thank you to the member for the question and for his spotlight on housing.
I think housing is one of the most important issues in the province, and the shortage of rental housing is one of the most profound challenges we face. We’re making some traction on getting new rental housing built. We have an issue where our population is increasing far more dramatically than our rental housing supply is. In that situation, rents are going up. There’s huge pressure placed on tenants that are in lower-rent housing, as landlords want to evict them and bring in folks that can pay more.
So what we need to do is build housing, and rental housing in particular, at a very large scale. We have $2 billion going into the HousingHub to build rental housing. This is just the start as we work with municipalities to streamline approvals. We’ve got 11,068 new rental housing units registered already in 2021. When you look at the previous government, not even close. We have more purpose built rental units registered for construction by in June 2021 than the old government ever registered in an entire year.
The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
The minister is correct. There has been a number of actions that have been taken over the last three years. The problem is, is that over that time…. The affordable rentals are out of reach. They don’t exist, because the rental market is out of control. The programs that the minister referenced are all programs that are going to fix a problem in the future. The problem exists now for British Columbians.
It’s all over social media — people talking about their stories and the lack of affordability in their housing. The extreme challenges that our cities and towns are facing are challenges that are being faced now.
These efforts that the government has outlined have not gone far enough. People need support now. What is the minister doing now to make rental housing more affordable?
Hon. D. Eby:
One of great challenges of the housing problem that we were left with is that there’s a real lag between government programs starting and the delivery of that housing. The member is absolutely right. So that’s why we put a number of….
Hon. D. Eby:
I’ve already outlined how much better we’re doing on rental housing starts than the previous government. I think they should be a bit cautious, the opposition, about jeering.
With respect to what we’re doing right now….
Let’s listen to the answer, please.
Yeah, that’s fine, Member. That’s okay.
Hon. D. Eby:
I hear the opposition.
So far this year over 11,000 purpose built rental homes registered in B.C. That’s five times the yearly average when the opposition was in power, just to give a reality check. That would be inflation plus 2 percent rent increases of the old government.
We put a ban on rent increases during COVID. We have limited rent increases to inflation only. We have increased the availability of the SAFER subsidy for seniors so that they’re able to stay in their housing. We’ve increased money available for seniors to retrofit housing so they can stay in their housing longer. We have increased resources to the residential tenancy branch, with the enforcement branch, by the way, that the previous government put in but never funded to support tenants and landlords.
We’ve got a lot more work to do. The pressure is continuing, and we will continue that work.
Mr. Speaker: Members.