By DANIEL FONTAINE
If you’ve lived in Metro Vancouver for any length of time, the topic of housing affordability has likely come up at the dinner table. With the average price of a Vancouver home pegged at more than $1 million, it’s fairly obvious why this issue has captured our attention.
This week, Vancouver City Hall released yet another report on how to increase housing affordability in one of the most expensive places to live on Earth. While the task force should be commended for its efforts, I note the report had one glaring omission.
It failed to address B.C.’s Strata Property Act and how it manages to discourage affordable rental units from entering the market.
Section 141 of the act allows a strata council to limit how many rentals are permitted in a condo complex. In other words, if you are a condo owner and want to place it on the rental market, you may not be able to legally do so.
In fact, even if up to 25% of the condo owners in your strata want to rent their units, the legislation enables the other 75% of owners to impose an outright ban.
One of the consequences of this legislation is a number of older condo buildings forbid rentals. Many real estate listings even proudly boast “no rentals” as prominently as they do new granite countertops.
In 2010, the province amended the act slightly to ensure prospective purchasers would be protected from rental-averse strata councils.
Developers are now allowed to register with Victoria when they are selling new units that permit rentals. Once this is done, future strata councils cannot override it. Hence, many of the newer buildings that authorize rental suites will have to continue doing so for years to come.
One way to solve our affordability problem might be to modernize the act to ensure it requires a minimum 10% of units in any strata complex can be placed into the rental market. Of course, the legislation would only apply if an individual owner actually decides they want to put their place up for rent.
Strata councils would still be able to ensure 90% of the condo units are owner-occupied.
It’s clear from the city’s report that a lot of work needs to be done to help make Vancouver more affordable. Let’s hope the task force will be open to exploring this during the forthcoming consultation period.