The BC Green Party is proposing measures to address the housing affordability crisis in the province.
Party leader Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan, says renters in BC are facing a deepening crisis.
The Greens want the provincial government to raise income caps for existing assistance programs and to implement Rental Rate Protection.
Furstenau says it’s time to “shift the focus from housing as a commodity to housing as a right” so every British Columbian has a secure and affordable home.
The party proposes immediate increases in the household income cutoffs for the Rental Assistance Program and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters.
The BC Green Parry proposes:
RAP (All areas of the province): Increase the household income cap from $40,000 to $70,000.
SAFER (Lower Mainland):
Single: Increase from $30,600 to $45,000.
Couple: Increase from $33,000 to $50,000.
SAFER (Other areas):
Single: Increase from $29,352 to $45,000.
Couple: Increase from $31,992 to $50,000.
To cover the additional costs, the Green Party recommends doubling the budget for rental assistance programs from the $164 million proposed by the NDP for 2024/25 to $338 million.
The Greens are also calling for a Rental Rate Protection program to limit or prevent rent increases after a tenant leaves.
The proposed cap should mirror the annual rental rate increase allowed under current legislation, which is a maximum of 3.5% in 2024.
The BC Green party says data from the Canadian Rental Housing Index shows that 38% of renters in BC are spending more than 30% of their household income on rent and utilities, with 16% paying more than 50%.
It says current eligibility cutoffs for assistance programs are too low and increasing them will offer immediate relief for many renters.
The Greens also warn the practice of clawing back SAFER benefits due to increases in federal benefits like Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement has led to a reduction in SAFER benefits over the past few years.
Saanich North and the Islands Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says the NDP government’s focus has been on increasing the supply of housing for homebuyers, and have been unwilling to take meaningful steps to ensure renters have a secure and affordable place to live,
Olsen says last week’s increase in funds for the BC Rent Bank is welcome news, but when people turn to the rent bank, they’re in an extremely desperate situation.
He says they are proposing immediate policy measures to protect the estimated 1.5 million renters in BC.