Metro Vancouver is Canada’s eviction capital, according to a new report.
A BC University study shows that 10.5 percent of renter households in Metro Vancouver experienced eviction as the reason for their last move. This is compared to 5.8 percent in Toronto and 4.2 percent in Montreal.
The province as a whole has a similarly bleak rate of evictions, at 10.6 percent, again, by a wide margin. The next highest rate of evictions was 6.8 percent on Prince Edward Island. The provincial average was around 5 percent. BC is an outlier.
“Honestly, it was a shocking finding,” said UBC’s Craig Jones, who supervised research from 2018 based on the latest data from the Canadian Housing Survey. Mr. Jones, who is the research coordinator for UBC’s balanced supply of housing research. The cluster was overseen by a team that analyzed survey results and looked at removal rates for the first time.
“I will speak personally here, I have been a renter in Vancouver, and I was personally evicted twice within a five-year period, a long time ago. So I have seen it. But the fact remains It was a surprise that Metro Vancouver was much higher than Toronto in terms of these eviction rates, or the extortion of tenants.
“There is evidence that we are different from the rest of the country. We didn’t know that,” he continued. “We were skeptical, but this is really compelling evidence that there is a difference between Metro Vancouver and BC”
According to census data, there’s a reason “renovation” is a household term in B.C., where 32 percent of homes are rented. Tenants are regularly thrown out of their homes because landlords use renovation excuses to find new tenants who will pay higher rents. It is a by-product of rising land values, driven by housing finance. Owners want to maximize their return on investment. Street nurse and housing advocate Kathy Crowe says this is an upcoming phenomenon in Toronto. If Vancouver is a cautionary tale, Toronto should heed.
“I am very angry,” says Ms. Crowe, a Distinguished Visiting Practitioner at Ryerson University. “It’s too bad—everything is backlogged. In Toronto, we have 80,000 families waiting for housing. They’re not people—they’re households.”
After years of seeing price increases year after year, election promises are hollow, say housing-rights advocates, who have seen years of renewal and displacement.
University of Toronto Professor of Housing and Community Development David Hulchansky reviews the Liberal Government’s 2015 Housing Forum with Ms Crowe. “We judge policies by what governments do, not by what they say,” he says. “Real change was necessary in 2015, and now it is even more necessary. Thus, here we are, in 2021.”
Pro. The problem, says Hulchansky, is that very few people mention the role of wealth inequality when discussing the housing market. Social housing, or non-market housing stock, such as co-ops, accounts for about 4 percent of Canadian homes, largely derived from 550,000 units of non-market housing built during the golden years of Canada’s National Housing Strategy. – which provides long-term investment for social housing, and which the Conservative and Liberal governments stopped funding by 1993.
Canada’s housing system is driven by market demand, which encourages compact forms of housing such as townhouses and towers as solutions to affordability. Pro. Hulchansky, a report released this year, Opening Doors: Unlocking Housing Supply for Affordability, refers to a joint effort by the federal and B.C. governments. The report does not address the fact that many people do not have enough income to pay the market value.
“The growth of income and wealth inequality in Canada since the 1990s has led Canadian minorities, perhaps the top 5 percent to 10 percent of the wealthiest, to fully engage in the large-scale and highly profitable financial exploitation of the rest of Canadians. Just want a good quality space, suitable for their needs at a price they can afford,” Prof. Hulchansky says. “Everyone except 4 percent of Canadian households must go to the housing market for their housing, either to rent or to buy.”
And then there is another factor that is widely blamed for contributing to the inefficiency, the influx of foreign funds into the housing market. Liberals and conservatives are proposing a temporary two-year ban on new foreign ownership, even though foreign purchases have long been a fact of BC life going back decades.
The federal government’s Immigrant Investor Program was a gateway for foreign money entering BC, which found its way into the real estate market. The federal program was eventually scrapped in 2014 after the government acknowledged that investors were not paying their fair share of taxes.
Ian Young, a reporter for the South China Morning Post based in Vancouver, attempted to obtain whether the report would be a revelation if it had been made public at the time. A report prepared in 1996 by investigative auditors from the Burnaby-based Canada Revenue Agency found that wealthier migrants bought more than 90 percent of luxury homes in Burnaby and Coquitlam, while declaring incomes lower than those declared by refugees.
Mr Young was tipped off by a disgruntled whistleblower who knew of the findings and provided him with excerpts. However, when Mr Young contacted the CRA, he refused to believe that the report existed. He requested a Freedom of Information request for the document in August 2016 and only received it last month – a full five years after his request. It was not a complicated request. Mr Young did not ask the CRA to produce the documents. He had sought the present report.
Ironically, they sent him the report by Express Post on an old-fashioned DVD.
“Because time is of the essence,” he says with sarcasm.
“It’s not just a journalist’s issue,” he says. “If this hadn’t been a mystery in 1996, imagine how it would have influenced the story of Vancouver.”
Had they taken action, they would have done local income earners a favor, as tax evasion drives up home prices. Local income earners who pay their fair share of taxes can’t compete with people who buy property worth $1 million and declare nothing. A newcomer to Canada bought a Burnaby home for $2.88 million and declared a total household income of $174. Others declared negative income.
And yet, it took the government 18 years after the CRA report was written to repeal the Immigrant Investor Program. And a Quebec version of the program continued, and was only temporarily suspended in 2019, when it was acknowledged that the vast majority of successful candidates were not living in Quebec, as intended, but in BC and Ontario. were going in.
“Vancouver became the most popular destination … behind these plans,” he says.
Furthermore, auditors found similar demographic results when they looked at a random sample of more than 6,000 luxury properties in Vancouver and Richmond.
“Twenty years later, the Department of Immigration discontinued these plans and in 1996 discontinued these plans for the exact same reasons identified by these CRA auditors,” Mr. Young says. “If you have to get angry at someone, get angry at the government officials who let it happen.”
Ever since the pandemic began, there have been those who point to the strong housing market as a sign that foreign funding was not such a big culprit. What they’re missing, says Mr. Young, is that Vancouver’s prices have actually slowed down compared to the rest of Canada.
But the foreign money that has flown into the province over the past few decades has not gone away.
“You can turn off the faucet, but that doesn’t reduce the amount of water in the bathtub,” he says.
BC’s outlier removal rate suggests that things went awry some time ago.
“We were a basket case on a global scale.”
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