Housing plan or sham?

In my previous report, I discussed how the Trudeau Liberal Government allocated nearly $42 million for a supposed “gun buyback” program. Despite being announced almost four years ago by Prime Minister Trudeau, it hasn’t “bought back” a single gun.

Since that report, Prime Minister Trudeau has introduced another initiative, referred to as the ‘Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights.’

Let’s begin by clarifying that residential tenancy falls entirely under provincial government jurisdiction in Canada. This is worth mentioning because Prime Minister Trudeau has been increasingly announcing programs that exceed the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights proposes three main measures. First, it intends to establish a $15 million fund to protect tenants’ rights within the legal system. Second, it requires landlords to disclose a clear history of apartment pricing, enabling renters to negotiate fairly. Third, the bill proposes amending the Canadian Mortgage Charter. This would allow landlords, banks, credit bureaus, and fintech companies access to a tenant’s rental history, which could be factored into their credit score.

Over the past week, I’ve received several concerns and feedback regarding these proposals. Here are some of the major points and my thoughts on them. There’s no doubt that some in the legal community will support a $15 million legal fund, as one local MLA has already shared with me.

However, in B.C., the provincial government has policies in place to protect the rights of tenants. The Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) provides low-cost options to resolve landlord-tenant disputes without the need for a lawyer. I believe that this measure may not be extremely effective in helping citizens secure affordable housing. Creating a fund that works within the legal system that is not known for its speediness rather than improving the timeliness of the RTB is a head scratcher.

The second proposal is perplexing. In a market where affordable housing is scarce and prices are largely driven by demand and shortage of affordable alternatives, knowing that a previous tenant paid less imposes no restrictions on what a prospective tenant might be willing to pay in the current market. This proposal seems surprisingly naïve, failing to recognize the real problem – a lack of affordable housing and increased demand leading to rental prices that are unmanageable.

The final proposal is particularly intriguing. As the Prime Minister has stated, “renters deserve credit for the money they put toward rent over the years, especially when it comes time to apply for a mortgage for their first home.” At first glance, this proposal seems promising. Several landlords have already expressed their support, seeing it as a tool to ensure timely rent payment. The potential negative impact on a tenant’s credit rating could deter unpaid rent or property damage, reducing the risk of units being left vacant.

However, I’ve received several serious concerns from tenants.  One tenant explained that many renters resort to having roommates to afford the rent and bill payments. The issue arises when a roommate, who is not named on the lease, fails to pay their share on time. This could unfairly impact the credit rating of the person named on the lease.

Another concern involved the BC government closing the Okanagan valley to tourists between August 20th and September 4th 2023. As a result of this decision, some people were immediately laid off. They had not yet qualified for EI and were unable to pay their rent at the end of the month. This situation could potentially negatively affect their credit rating under Trudeau’s plan.

From my perspective, it’s concerning when one level of government encroaches upon another’s jurisdiction without proper consultation. This often happens when attempting to “fix” complex problems, which can inadvertently create unforeseen issues and potentially worsen the situation.

This week’s question is:  Do you support the idea of a Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights,  or do you believe that the federal government should leave this issue to the provinces to handle? Why or why not?

You can reach me at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll-free at 1-800-665-8711.