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BCGEU joins the call for the province to implement vacancy control in B.C.

As B.C.’s housing crisis deepens by a lack of supply and ever increasing rental costs, a rally was held outside the legislature calling for vacancy control in the province.

“People simply cannot afford to pay rent in the increases that are being demanded of them,” said one speaker at the rally.

That’s the message being put forth by a number of advocates.

“Wages are not keeping up with the cost of rent,” said another attendee.

One in three people in British Columbia call themselves renters. Some say they are being evicted through legal loopholes so landlords can raise the rent on their unit.

“Vacancy control is a housing policy that has worked in the past,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BC General Employees Union.

The BCGEU is one of the largest labour unions in the province, representing more than 85,000 members. It is now joining the call for vacancy control in B.C., saying the union can’t negotiate pay raises to keep up with rising rents.

“Vacancy control will help immediately eliminate the skyrocketing costs of rent when somebody moves out of a unit and somebody new moves in,” said Smith.

Vacancy control ties rent increases to a housing unit rather than individual tenancy agreements, meaning a landlord cannot hike up the price when a tenant moves out.

It is an idea that Landlord BC says won’t help the province’s housing crisis, saying it would reduce investment in housing supply as inflation outpaces revenues. It went on to say it would dampen the creation of desperately needed, purpose-built rental buildings.

“We need all the support that we can get,” said Emma White, a vacancy control campaigner with Together Against Poverty.

Together Against Poverty is one of the groups that has been calling on the province to implement vacancy controls for years.

“The province is always going to be scared to do something that threatens the development industry because it is just so huge and profitable,” said White.

The province says it has taken steps to protect renters, including an annual allowable rent increase of 3.5 per cent in 2024. That is one and a half per cent higher than last year.

The province says in 2018 it created a Rental Housing Task Force that carefully considered the issue of vacancy controls and ultimately determined that it would have the unintended consequence of reducing affordable rental stock.

It’s a finding the BCGEU disputes, but at the end of the day, the province gets the final say.

“Vacancy control and rent control does not mean failure for the industry,” said Smith. Top Stories

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