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LETTER: Shelter should not be a luxury


Victoria, B.C.’s capital city, is one of the country’s most expensive places to live.

In a local and global economy that relies heavily on real estate investment to underwrite the growth boom of the ‘rentier class’, it’s not surprising to see that the rewards of the few come at the expense of the many.

Shelter is a fundamental human right. Yet, like many aspects of life, putting a roof over one’s head has become a privilege available only to those with stable, secure, high-paying incomes or those who possess many wealth-generating assets.

Politicians say they’re concerned about the swelling ranks of the unhoused population, soaring cost of living, and rampant rent increases, amidst an acute shortage of affordable and available dwelling units.

Yet, their actions speak louder than their words.

Government “deregulated” the real estate and development sector, limited subsidization of affordable units, and offered loose licensing requirements for short-term rentals as “mortgage helpers” or investment opportunities. These measures serve the financial institutions, money launderers, corporate trusts and property management firms who flip units or capitalize on “ghost hotels” to accommodate well-heeled tourists. They do nothing to remedy the housing crisis from which they all profit.

For decades, Victoria’s rental vacancy rate has been less than one per cent. The average one-bedroom monthly rent is $2,000, homes cost upwards of $850,000, while the average household after-tax income is less than $75,000 a year.

For years, the City of Victoria and real estate investors have benefited from the conversion of apartment units to strata title, thereby reducing the inventory of affordable rental units. Today, they reap the benefits of new condo construction and conversion of former hotels to AirBnB investment properties. Ten multi-dwelling properties in Victoria, owned predominantly by out-of-town investors, represent over 80 per cent of the short-term rental pool.

Greater Victoria’s 4,000+ short-term rentals suggest government preserves, protects and promotes profitable “ghost hotels” while demolishing and diminishing the inventory of affordable dwellings for local needs.

Shelter is not a luxury! Let’s end all short-term rentals and housing speculation until we can put a roof over everyone’s head.

Victoria Adams