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New bill of rights helping renters unveiled by Trudeau in B.C.

Wednesday’s announcement includes making rental payments count toward credit scores

A Canadian Renters’ Bill of Rights is among housing measures Prime Minister Trudeau announced Wednesday morning (March 27) in Vancouver.

“It would create a nationwide standard for lease agreements, give renters a clear history of apartment pricing so they can bargain fairly and make sure they have more agency,” Trudeau said. “We are also going to launch a new legal aid fund (worth $15 million) that will protect tenants against unfairly rising rents, evictions and bad landlords.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland added that the federal government will develop this renters’ bill of rights with the provinces and territories. She did not give a date when this bill would come into effect.

Trudeau also announced that on-time rental payments will improve future credit scores.

“This will make it easier to qualify for a mortgage or even qualify you at a lower rate,” he said. “(Just) think about all the other things that will come from having a better credit score, to help you start a small business.”

Trudeau added it is unfair that homeowners paying their mortgages get credit, while renters do not get the same benefit.

Such a change would require legislative changes to the Canadian Mortgage Charter and buy-in from landlords, banks, credit bureaus, and fintech companies.

Trudeau acknowledged this aspect, but noted that some financial organizations and landlords have already started to recognize on-time rental payments as a sign of stability and credit worthiness.

Trudeau’s choice of announcing these measure in front of an audience largely composed of people in their 20s and 30s at a South Vancouver community centre was not without design.

“Nearly two thirds of young Canadians rent their homes and they spend a greater share of their income on housing than other generations,” he said. “In cities, like Vancouver, where we are today, this is even more true. This is the most expensive to rent in the country. Renters matter and young Canadians put a lot of their hard-earned money towards rent. We think that should count for a lot more.”

RELATED: Deputy PM Freeland brings promise of ‘housing, housing, housing’ to B.C.

Almost four of 10 households in Metro Vancouver (37 per cent) rent with more than half of all households (54 per cent) in the City of Vancouver renting. Figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation identify Metro Vancouver as the most expensive rental market in Canada with the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom-apartment being $2,181.

This push for younger voters comes as the federal Liberals are struggling in the polls against the federal Conservatives, who have seen their popularity rise among Canadian Millennials, people born between 1981 and 1996. They recently surpassed baby boomers born after the Second World War as Canada’s dominant generation, but unlike boomers, are finding it difficult to enter the housing market.

Trudeau said he entered politics to help young people, when asked whether the measures announced today aimed to bring those voters back to the federal Liberals.

“I made working for young people the centre of my campaign to become prime minister and I have focused on them ever since,” he said. “The reality is young people, who are key to our present and obviously key to our future, are seeing a system that is stacked against them.”

The joint appearance by Trudeau and Freeland comes just 16 days after Freeland had stopped in Greater Victoria as part of a budget preview tour. While she did not reveal specifics, she promised that next month’s federal budget (April 16) would be about “housing, housing, housing.” Both Trudeau and Freeland used the occasion to praise the provincial government.

“I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to Premier Eby and the B.C. government,” Freeland said. “The Premier and his team are doing ambitious and exciting thing on housing.”

Trudeau echoed this point. “I have to say being here in B.C., I cannot help but emphasize the positive conversations we’ve had with a number of governments, B.C. being (at) the forefront among them, on solving the rental and housing crisis that people are facing right across the country.”

He specifically pointed to the BC Builds program with the federal government having matched B.C.’s initial investment of $2 billion. Trudeau said that program is “unlocking affordable housing across the province in an extraordinarily impactful way,” he said.

Experts are less enthusiastic. Alex Hemingway, senior economist and public finance policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said B.C. needs more housing supply generally and more non-market housing specifically.

“This is a program that can help deliver that,” he said. “But does the scale of the program match the scale of the housing crisis? No, it doesn’t.”

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon welcomed the plan to make on-time rental payments count toward individuals’ credit score, adding that it will especially benefit new immigrants, who “arrive with zero credit history.” Landlords would also benefit from the measure, because it creates an incentive for renters to pay on-time, he added.

Kahlon also welcomed the fund designed to protect the rights of renters.

“As far as the (renters’ bill of rights) goes, many of the measures that they are talking about, many of the measures we have already done in British Columbia,” he said, adding later that it might not be necessary. “From a B.C. perspective, it may not have a big impact, but this is a big country. (Many) other provinces do not have any of these protections, so it may be necessary for them.”

B.C., he added, will monitor the issue.

Kahlon said the federal measures announced today won’t solve the housing crisis, “but it is one additional piece toward a basket of things that we need to do all the same time.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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