In the summer of 1999, Lenny Bernard cruised Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant in search of a place to rent.
Another market at the time had a healthy vacancy rate of close to 3%. She walked past lawn signs announcing availability and cable TV in big letters. Mount Pleasant is known for its beautiful brick-clad apartments that are over 100 years old. But the house that caught her eye was her spacious corner unit on her second floor of a wooden walk-up.
“The landlord wanted me to sign a one-year lease, but I was nervous,” said Bernard, who was used to moving around. “But I signed it.”
That deal was $625 a month for a one-bedroom unit, about $60 less than the market average at the time.
“I thought we had a good deal,” Bernard said.
It wasn’t just the rent that was good. The home was spacious at 800 square feet, but it was even more impressive as the new condo shrunk to almost half its size. , has a bedroom big enough to accommodate a double bed and a loft bed for our 13 year old son. And in village-like Mount Pleasant, Bernard, a part-time radio journalist, always walked to work.
On top of that, her lease agreement has gotten sweeter over time. Thanks to her willingness to sign 23 years before her and her landlord choosing not to raise her rent for her first ten years, the amount she is paying each month is About $500 less than the market average.
Her rent is $878, an amazing price for a home like hers in 2022.
step in the door
You may hear about unicorn rentals like this from time to time, as BC has chosen to legislate rent control.
BC allows annual rent increases based on the state’s average inflation rate. Prior to 2018, the allowed rate of increase was even higher, with states allowing an additional 2% on average inflation.
This means that the sooner a person steps in the door of a rental, the lower the starting point regarding rent increases.
For example, Mr. A starts with $900 monthly rent for one year and Mr. B starts with $1,000 the next year. Over time, the difference between what Person A and Person B pay continues to grow based on the inflation-based annual increase in BC.
But being Person A is not without setbacks, especially in a hot rental market like Metro Vancouver.
This means that long-time tenants who have organized their lives around affordable rent may find it difficult to move out, as they will be exchanging rent-controlled tenants for new tenants at higher market rates. .
Vacancy in the area is low at around 1%, and old rental buildings are selling fast for redevelopment, making it increasingly difficult to become a tenant.
The Vancouver Tenants Union told The Tyee earlier this year that the system currently in place is not “true rent control,” tying rent control to the unit itself rather than to each tenant’s tenant. says.
That way, the new tenant will pay the same rent that the previous tenant was paying, says spokesperson Mazdak Gharivnavas.
BCGEU recently conducted a poll on this kind of rent control, with 62% of members supporting it.
Gharibnavaz said the current system “financially encourages eviction”.
“The landlord can find some reason to evict you and then raise the rent between tenancy agreements. is.”
Bernard laughs at the idea that she was once apprehensive about signing a lease in the first place because of how tightly she clung to it later on.
“I left Tanzania in the 2000s and lived there for three years, then went to Ghana for a few years.
“That’s the key. It’s so big that management has allowed me to do that, so you can keep something in your name and have a home to come back to after your adventures abroad.” I am here to this day.”
Bernard, who works four days a week so he can spend more time raising his children, makes $30,000 a year.
According to leading housing agencies such as the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, housing costs must be less than 30% of your income to be considered affordable. This means that even though the rent Bernard is paying is below market value, her home is still considered affordable housing.
Bernard is 54 years old. Others, like her, who have leases for decades to count, tend to be older and into the hotter rental market than millennials and Gen Zers. These longtime tenants are no longer working full-time and may rely on low rents to survive.
“As a tenant, you are always afraid,” Bernard said.
She remembers when the next-door apartment owner “renovated” her neighbor, converting her one-bedroom into a two-bedroom and charging her more.
Earlier this summer, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart proposed a series of tenant protections as part of plans for the Broadway Corridor. This is because the city welcomes new densities in the construction of new subways. Not only did the city council approve the protection, but it voted in late July asking staff to consider the possibility of extending protection across the city.
If Bernard’s building is redeveloped, protection means she will be housed elsewhere for the same rent and invited to return to a new building for the same rent. Even if developers are following the requirements as intended by the city, which it calls “reliable protection,” Barnard still has his shortcomings.
She is worried about increased utility bills. “Here’s the thing: we have free heating, free hot water, and free cable (this was her in the 90s, when everyone had free cable). , it all goes away.”
She worries about moving to a new neighborhood in the meantime. Her son, who is often with her, attends school in the area. Since she doesn’t drive, she won’t be able to walk to work.
She also worries about being assigned a small house in a new building. This would make it difficult for her son to stay with her.
The idea of a subway making trendy Mount Pleasant even hotter has already seen a wave of gentrification with an influx of tech offices, fine dining and new condominiums, but Bernard worries.
However, as a renter, I was “always on the nerves”.
Hot, Hot Housing is a reporting column about the housing crisis in Vancouver and beyond that appears in The Tyee every Friday. Got your own housing story? For market hijinks, tenant scare, survival tips and more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sweet Deal: Why Some People Still Pay Low Rent For Less
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