UBC Graduate Research

The Rental Housing Index: Examining the State of Rental Housing in British Columbia McDonald, Hannah Marie


This report was undertaken as part of a larger research project initiated by the BC Non-Profit Housing Association (BCNPHA). The motivation behind the larger project was to provide better and more nuanced data on the rental housing market in British Columbia. The purpose of this report is to give context to this data and demonstrate how the methodology may be applicable outside of BC. The report begins by providing a historical analysis of the factors that have influenced the state of rental housing in Canada. These include the restructuring of federal income tax policies in 1972, rent control, effects of condominiums, direct government programs, and Canada’s ‘dual housing policy’. This history shows that the majority of today’s purpose-built residential rental stock was constructed prior to 1972 and will need significant maintenance in coming years. The current market incentivizes the provision of new rental housing delivered as smaller buildings by non-corporate landlords such as rented condos, rented houses, secondary suites and accessory dwellings such as laneway or carriage homes. For a variety of reasons, the data collected and reported on rental housing fails to document accurately this secondary rental market. The RHI research project was conceived to address the absence of information on the rental housing market. The second section gives an explanation of the methodology and its development followed by a discussion of the results of this research. Three main trends in BC’s rental housing market are identified. Firstly, unaffordable rental housing is not a problem that exists only in large urban centres. The statistical analysis undertaken through this research examined the rental housing markets in Canada, British Columbia, and nearly all BC Regional Districts and municipalities showing that communities of all sizes across BC have unaffordable rental housing markets. Secondly, issues with rental housing affordability appear to stem primarily from a mismatch between high rents and low incomes rather than households living in overcrowded or otherwise inadequate conditions. Lastly, because the unique methodology allows examination of rental housing trends for households with different incomes, it is shown that problems of rental housing affordability are disproportionately affecting those with lower incomes. The report concludes with recommendations as to how the results of this research may be applied in practice. The results of this project and the RHI as a tool are potentially useful to affordable housing advocates, researchers, planners and developers. Suggestions of how this work might be used by these types of practitioners are addressed in turn.

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