WHERE’S THE $500 THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROMISED B.C. RENTERS?
The provincial government and rental advocates have heard crickets about the federal government’s promised $500 payment for struggling B.C. renters, despite the promise being made almost three months ago and rising inflation.
During the federal budget announcement in early April, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that one million Canadians deemed to be struggling with the cost of housing would receive a one-time payment of $500.
On June 16, Freeland revealed an $8.9-billion list of measures to help curb the impact of inflation — which the government attributed to the pandemic (interest rates were dropped to record levels), China’s zero-COVID policy and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
These measures include increasing the Canada Workers Benefit, reducing child care costs, increasing Old Age Security by 10 per cent and indexing government benefits to inflation.
Freeland also re-announced the $500 payment as part of the inflation-fighting program. Across Canada, the cost of living has risen almost eight per cent since May 2021.
“The government will provide renters in 2022 a one-time $500 payment to nearly one million low-income Canadians struggling with the cost of living,” Freeland said.
The federal government has not revealed how, when or to whom it will issue the promised $500 payments to eligible renters.
Last Wednesday, the Department of Finance Canada said the specifics and delivery method of the $500 payment “to those facing housing affordability challenges will be announced at a later date.”
The money will be on top of the $4-billion, eight-year Canada Housing Benefit (launched in 2020) that is aimed at giving direct support to people “experiencing housing need.”
Provincially, the ministry responsible for housing told Postmedia it “is aware of the federal government’s housing affordability payment and looks forward to learning more about it.”
Neither Robert Patterson, a lawyer with the Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre, or Doug King, executive director of the Victoria-based Together Against Poverty Society, have heard anything about the $500 payments.
While the price of buying a house in B.C. has stalled as the federal government has increased interest rates to try to rein in inflation, the costs of rent has increased.
According to the latest report published by zumper.com, the cost of renting a two-bedroom home in Vancouver has grown by 20 per cent in the past year. The average price of a one-bedroom rental in Vancouver has risen 14.9 per cent over the same period to $2,240.
This comes as the B.C. government considers whether to again override its inflation-based rent increase policy — weighing the concerns of landlords and renters both impacted by soaring costs.
“Canada is seeing the highest levels of inflation in decades, especially when it comes to housing costs,” David Eby, the minister responsible for housing, told Postmedia News. “We recognize many renters are barely hanging on and costs for landlords are going up as well.”
In 2018, the B.C. NDP changed laws around rent increases, restricting a landlord’s ability to raise the rent of an existing tenant to more than the rate of inflation. Before that a landlord could increase those rents by the rate of inflation plus two per cent.
In 2020 and 2021, the provincial government overrode that policy as part of its COVID-19 emergency powers by making it illegal to increase rents at all.
For 2022 the government stuck with policy and allowed a 1.5 per cent rent increase based on the annual inflation rate as of July 2021.
However, since then inflation has soared and as of last month in B.C. was 8.1 per cent and growing. The rental portion of the bundle of good and services used to determine the rate of inflation showed an increase of 5.5 per cent between May 2021 and May 2022.
According to a statement from the Ministry Responsible for Housing, the annual allowable rent increase is based on the 12-month average per cent change in the Consumer Price Index from June to July.
“The B.C. government will make its decision before the end of July,” the statement reads. Once the announcement is made, landlords can hike rents on Jan. 1, 2023, but must give tenants three months notice.
Story by: Times Colonist