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Comment: Strata property law aims at the wrong target

A commentary by the owner of a condo in Victoria.
The provincial ban on condominium rental restrictions will convert previously owner-occupied strata units into rentals at market-level rents, not affordable rates, Joanne Thibault writes. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

There are important numbers to add to the negative reality facing pre-2010 stratas being forced to convert into rental buildings.

First, justifying the wholesale conversion of strata buildings into rental buildings on the basis that there are about 1,500 available condo units (out of more than 300,000) is a false contention.

People who wanted to become landlords bought properties they could rent. They did not buy a condo in an owner-occupied building. People who wanted to be homeowners at a price they could afford, accepting the collective responsibility of strata living, chose those units.

The available 1,500 empty units are not going to be miraculously converted into units for rent. These unit owners were never willing, or were not in a position, to be landlords.

For example, in my 22-unit condo, where we have always allowed one rental unit, no owner chooses to rent. One owner, who has kept their unit vacant for almost 20 years, could have rented, but did not.

Even the speculation tax did not move them to renting their unit out. They intend to move into that unit when they retire and in the meantime, they have the means to keep it vacant.

Premier David Eby’s law does not reach them.

Instead, and sadly, the forced rental law will convert previously owner-occupied strata units, the essential ingredient in a well-volunteered and resourced building, into rentals at market-level rents.

And let’s be honest, the mammoth problems this creates is especially painful as it is also absolutely no solution to the housing crisis. It simply picks away at housing supply while ignoring the real problem of housing affordability.

Ah, the elephant in the B.C. legislative building.

In 2022, in B.C., rent increases were supposedly capped at 1.5 per cent. Yet, the average rent increase in B.C., in 2022, was actually 15 to 20 per cent, and up to 34 per cent in Victoria. Forcing conversion of owner-occupied units into rentals in a province that has virtually no rent controls will simply add rental units at unattainable rent levels.

Why does the B.C. government continue to allow rent increases of this huge magnitude if it is sincerely interested in solving the housing crisis?

And why, in the absence of closing this monster loophole that results in unaffordable housing, does the B.C. government instead take after pre-2010 owner-occupied buildings that offer the primary ray of attainable home ownership hope there is in B.C.?

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