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The Province last week issued two key reports relating to housing and homelessness:  the 2018 Report on Homeless Counts in BC finding a minimum of 7,655 homeless people in BC; and the final report of the Rental Housing Task Force making 23 recommendations on wide ranging aspects of the rental housing framework.

2018 Report on Homeless Counts

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction released the 2018 Report on Homeless Counts, summarizing findings from 24 communities covering more than 85% of the province’s population over the past 2 years. The report found that there are at least 7,655 homeless people across BC.

The homeless people counted in the report are predominantly male (68%), with modest proportions of youth under 25 (15%) and adults aged 55+ (20%). Despite making up 6% of BC’s population, 38% of the homeless population that self-identified, identified as Indigenous. Approximately half of the respondents reported being homeless for one year or more, while 31% reported being homeless for less than 6 months. In addition, 58% of respondents reported one or more health conditions including addiction and mental illness. The counts in the report did not account for the “hidden homeless”, for example, those who are temporarily living with friends and relatives.

The results of the count will help to inform a homeless action plan that will be released as part of a poverty reduction strategy anticipated in early 2019. UBCM’s housing strategy calls for a comprehensive approach to homelessness focusing on case-management and prevention of homelessness.

Rental Housing Task Force Report

In April 2018, Premier Horgan appointed a Rental Housing Task Force to make recommendations on improving security and fairness for renters and rental housing providers. The Task Force made its first recommendations in September, calling for the annual rent increase formula to be reduced by 2% to an inflation adjustment only. This recommendation was accepted by the Province in September, and will be effective starting in 2019.

The Task Force has now issued a final report making 23 recommendations, including calls to:

  • Amend the Residential Tenancy Act to allow for maintaining tenancy during renovations as long as the tenant is willing to accommodate construction.
  • Eliminate the ability of strata corporations to ban rentals from their buildings.
  • Maintain the current system of tying rent increases to the tenant rather than the home (no ‘vacancy controls’). This approach was strongly advocated for by the development industry as necessary to ensure adequate incentive to continue constructing rental units. However several tenant unions have expressed displeasure that vacancy controls are not being recommended, suggesting that they are necessary to remove the profit motive for renovictions.

The Rental Housing Task Force Report also recommends that the Province work with local governments to:

  • Develop tenant compensation and relocation guidelines that address the demolition of purpose built rental housing to reduce the dislocation of tenants, and
  • Develop, implement and enforce short-term rental rules to better protect long-term housing stock.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will now review the Task Force’s recommendations over the coming weeks before determining whether and how to proceed with implementation.

The recommendations are broadly consistent with UBCM’s housing report that calls for an approach to rental housing that balances the need for adequate incentives for landlords to rent out units with appropriate renter safeguards.

With regards to short-term rentals in particular, both UBCM’s housing report and member-endorsed resolutions have called for greater provincial support to address short-term rentals. Resolution 2018-A4 and the housing report both specifically identify platform accountability as one approach to ease the regulatory burden for local governments. As outlined in 2018-A4, this approach would require short-term rental platforms to agree to require their hosts to provide proof of a valid business licence, where applicable, in order to advertise using their service.

UBCM will continue to engage with the Province on housing and communicate further developments to members.

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