Rent controls absolved - R2H Letter to WFP

Rent controls absolved

Winnipeg Free Press
Letter to the Editor
Re: Rent controls absolved Feb. 15 2011, (condo conversion, not so much)

It was good to see a reputable report on the impact of rent regulation on the apartment vacancy rate in Manitoba. A quick read of Professor Grant’s report confirms what Right to Housing has been saying for some time, that rent regulation in Manitoba has ample latitude for rent increases for new construction, high end apartments and needed renovations. It is not the cause of the vacancy squeeze. The report indicates that the major cause of the short supply of affordable rentals is the influx of new Canadians. While this is indeed a factor, there was no mention of the cumulative effect of repressive taxation by Revenue Canada on the construction of rental accommodation. This trend to penalize new construction started in 1972 and has been increasing over the decades causing a huge decline in the supply of affordable rentals in Canada, (from 100,000 new builds per year in 1970 to just 5000 by the late nineties). This has been a largely ignored factor in the market failure of affordable rental housing across the country.

Regarding the conversion of rental apartments to condos the report minimizes this trend. It is true that the data indicates about 200 such conversions per year for the last two years in Winnipeg, following much higher rates of conversion earlier, however when ever affordable housing is removed from the market and returned at a price beyond the means of the original renter, we have displacement of the most vulnerable people. Between 1992 and 2009 Winnipeg’s private rental stock declined by 5473 units due to conversions to condos. So while 200 condo conversions a year may not seem statistically significant it means that 200 modest income households are trying to relocate in a market with 0.8% vacancy rate. When added to the hundreds of former social housing units that are now forced to charge market rent as they are no longer being subsidized due the expiry of federal operating grants, and the increased rents due to renovations, it creates the crisis of housing we are experiencing. The government of Manitoba needs to include condo conversion regulations in its current revisions to the Condominium Act. Other provinces have already done this. The bottom line is that by glossing over the real issues in housing we are creating homelessness faster than our efforts to eliminate it.

Clark Brownlee
Right to Housing Coalition

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