Figures produced by the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre show just how much the rental market changed from 2013 to 2014.
In 2013 advocate Ulf Kristiansen handled 38 cases with only three related to housing issues. Fast forward one year and the centre handled 189 cases that included 56 hearings related to tenants trying to fight eviction notices from landlords. Of those 56 hearings, 35 stemmed from eviction notices served to those living in the Port Edward trailer court while another 21 hearings were notices served for those living in apartments and houses in Prince Rupert.
Kristiansen noted there was an array of reasons behind these evictions, including unpaid rent, “renovictions”, evictions where the landlord wanted a relative to move in instead, evictions stemming from disturbing a neighbour or damaging property and more. He said the most common case the centre dealt with in 2014 was a tenant not paying rent. Kristiansen said one major catalyst for the increase in his caseload was the economic activity in the community related to industry.
“The workers that came to town to work in 2014 were renting every available apartment, house and sometimes motel or hotel room. My usual clientele were facing much greater difficulty in finding housing or retaining housing than they did in previous years,” he said, noting many low income renters feel left behind when it comes to housing options.
“I would like to see an increase in subsidized housing or what’s sometimes called social housing through any means possible. I’m hoping one day the federal government or provincial government will see fit will to put that item in their budget.”
As for talk of renoviction, which sees a landlord evict a tenant in order to improve the unit before putting it back on the market at an increased price in order to skirt the 2.5 per cent maximum annual rent increase allowed by the province, Kristiansen said it is a real problem now and may be a bigger one going forward.
“I suspect that many landlords are now deciding to renovate or move a relative into their rental units, not because they wanted to do this, but because they wanted to find a reason to get current tenants out. In my current estimation, the current rent in Prince Rupert has gone up by one and a half to two times,” he said, noting landlords seem “anxious” to raise rents.
“Anyone who faces a rent increase that seems unreasonable should come and see me at Fishermen’s Hall”
Kristiansen said there is hope for those who have been served with eviction notices. He notes that in 2014, approximately 75 per cent of those facing eviction in Prince Rupert prevailed in their eviction hearings.