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Rent control and rent decontrol in British Columbia : a case study of the Vancouver rental market, 1974 to 1989 Lazzarin, Celia C.

Abstract

This study examines the impact of rent control and rent decontrol on the rental sector. The city of Vancouver is used as an empirical case study to determine the accuracy of the assertions and predictions made by rent control opponents about the nature of the impact of British Columbia's rent control policy. The study begins with a review of the rent control literature in order to identify the theories presented by rent control opponents and supporters. The study then reviews the political debate over rent control and decontrol. A chronological summary of British Columbia's rent regulation system follows which illustrates the action taken by the politicians. Finally, the assertions and predictions made by rent control opponents about the impact of rent control are assessed by comparing them with the practical experience of Vancouver's rental market from 1974 to 1989. Rent regulations were in effect in British Columbia from 1974 to 1984. This study focuses on three particular stages during the period rents were regulated: a) the introduction of rent control from 1974 to 1975 by the New Democratic government; b) the beginning of rent decontrol from 1977 to 1978 by the Social Credit government; and c) the elimination of rent control and rent review from 1983 to 1984, also by the Social Credit government. Rent control opponents argue that rent control causes the following detrimental effects: a) decreases rental construction; b) reduces building maintenance; c) increases conversions from rental units to condominiums; d) increases demolition of rental buildings; e) creates excessive demand for rental housing; and f) reduces the municipal tax base. The most important finding is that there is no discernable relationship between the nature of the regulatory framework and the level of rental construction, rental conversions to condominiums, and demolition of rental stock. The study concludes that it is much too simple to blame one government policy-rent control—for the problems of the urban rental sector. It is clear that the problems are deep-rooted and that a combination of many macro-economic factors such as high and unstable inflation and interest rates, and the general economic climate can have a greater impact than the regulatory framework on the rental sector. In addition, demographic factors such as provincial rates of migration can have a very significant impact on demand in the rental sector. More empirical studies are needed to build on this study to better assess the impact of rent control on Vancouver and other cites in British Columbia. Research is also needed to assess the accuracy of the claims made by rent control supporters in order to determine whether they comprise valid criteria upon which to formulate rental policy.

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