According to a new analysis, the real estate market in B.C. is among the most expensive in Canada.
The Canadian Rental Housing Index reported a "staggering increase" in rental costs across the province. Many renters spend over half their gross monthly income to cover their rent and utilities. Between 2016 to 2021, the average rent in B.C. jumped 30%.
"The rental crisis is worse here than pretty much anywhere else in the country," said Jill Atkey, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association.
According to the 2021 census, the province has over 660,000 renter households. Approximately 105,000 renters spend most of their gross income solely on rent and utilities, while 150,000 homes put a third of their income towards that.
"It means people are cutting back on other necessities because rent is always the first thing to be paid," said Atkey. "That's extracurriculars for kids or people cutting back on food. Those sorts of things have real long-term impacts for people."
Statistics Canada said housing in the province is 'unaffordable,' reaching crisis levels that exacerbate homelessness.
Silas Xuereb, an independent researcher, and Craig Jones, associate director of UBC Housing Research Collaborative, said these conditions give landlords "increased incentives to evict tenants so that they can raise rents or sell properties for a profit."
According to Xuereb and Jones, monthly rents are $500 above the national average, incentivizing landlords to evict tenants to raise rents or sell the property.
The rising cost of renting is partly attributed to a growing population. BMO's chief economist Douglas Porter warned that increased competition among newcomers also increases accommodation costs.
In 2022, Canada welcomed 1.1 million permanent and temporary residents — more than double the 430,000-person quota set by Ottawa that year. Of these, 95.9% came from international migration.
In its annual rental market report, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) said "significantly higher net migration" drove up demand for rental properties. B.C. observed among the highest flows of new immigrants, placing additional demand pressures on their local markets.
"Growth in demand outpaced strong supply growth, pushing the vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments down from 3.1% to 1.9%. This was the vacancy rate's lowest level since 2001," wrote economists for the crown corporation.
Most new immigrants who came to the province settled in Metro Vancouver, where the typical cost to rent a two-bedroom unit is a whopping $2,002, excluding utilities.
Metro Vancouver also has Canada's highest eviction rate at 10.4% — though 85% of said evictions happened when landlords claimed properties for personal use or sold and demolished them.
The Housing Association CEO urged the province to bolster rent-relief programs, stating that residents need short-term support before long-term housing solutions are implemented.
From 2016 to 2021, renter households grew faster than homeowners for the first time in 50 years.
"You've got two working professionals who 20 years ago would have gone on to become homeowners. They're no longer able to do that," said Atkey.
The provincial government announced a $400 renters' tax credit for household incomes under $80,000 annually in Budget 2023. They also padded the monthly shelter rate for income and disability clients by $125/month.
In March, Opposition leader Kevin Falcon called the rent subsidy a "massive disappointment."
"A quarter million renter households in British Columbia who are struggling to afford rent…need help affording their current rent," added Atkey.