Revolutionizing Affordable Housing and Promoting Fairness in the Rental Housing Market

The current affordable housing strategy results in a disconnect between income levels and rent payments, leading to inequitable situations. For instance, individuals with higher incomes may find themselves paying significantly more for lower-quality units compared to those with lower incomes regardless of when they entered into their tenancy agreement. This ingrained unfairness undermines proper market mobility and is not equitable. A new universal system that provides for true affordability across the board should be implemented immediately, no matter what income bracket, area of residence, or living history. There is a sensible and fair solution.

Addressing the Housing Market Dynamics

To rectify the issue of affordability, it is crucial to understand how the current housing market operates. Condominiums represent the majority of new housing projects, and these units are typically rented out at high market rates, leaving tenants with no long-term security. The owner’s ability to sell or occupy the unit at any time can displace tenants abruptly. Furthermore, the presence of affordable units, often a small percentage reserved within new developments, reduces the overall supply of market-rate units and drives up rental rates for everyone else. This arrangement results in the market-rate units subsidizing the affordable units, benefiting only those who qualify and and are lucky enough to secure the limited availability of affordable housing, at the expense of everyone else.

The current method of providing affordable housing through various subsidies and programs is commendable but falls short in addressing the larger issue of housing affordability. These initiatives often cater to a limited number of individuals, leaving many others in need without adequate support. Moreover, the scarcity of affordable housing units, coupled with complex qualification criteria, can create an unfair advantage for those fortunate enough to secure these units.

Government spending on affordable housing can inadvertently contribute to the rising costs in the housing market. Policy that provides taxpayer money to non-profit organizations for the purchase of old rental buildings inflates the market and hinders redevelopment. Additionally, the current system of taxing property held by non-profits at a different rate further increases the tax burden on market housing.

Promoting Fairness in the Rental Housing Market

To rectify these issues and promote a fair rental housing market, it is essential to implement a system that ensures affordability for all individuals. A key principle of this proposal is to limit rent based on income at move-in. By setting the initial rent within a specific percentage of tenants’ income, we can create a rental market that promotes true affordability and market mobility. A suggested percentage for the initial rent is 35%, aligning closely with mortgage approval criteria and acknowledging the current reality that the majority of renters pay more than 35% of their income on rent.

Additionally, reforming the system of property taxes to focus on the land value rather than the entire property, thus incentivizing improvements, can promote development and enhance the overall housing supply. Alongside these measures, there is a need to limit GST to actual hard costs, eliminating any GST attributable to land value. It is also important to protect tenants by limiting fixed billing-related costs for utilities.

Implementing the proposed system of limiting rent based on income at move-in addresses the issues of unfairness and ensures that individuals are not reliant on luck or limited supply to access affordable housing. This approach promotes market mobility and allows individuals with lower incomes to secure housing in desirable locations that were previously out of their reach. As individuals with higher incomes move to more expensive housing options, the rental units they vacate become available for others, ensuring a continuous supply of affordable housing options.

Addressing Multiple Tenants

To address scenarios where multiple tenants are involved, such as roommates or family members sharing a rental unit, the combined income of all tenants could be considered. This ensures that households with varying income levels can still qualify for a rental unit, provided that the total rent amount remains within the prescribed income limitation. By incorporating mechanisms that account for shared tenancies, we can ensure that individuals and families have equal access to affordable housing, regardless of their specific living arrangements. This approach acknowledges the diversity of household compositions and considers the combined income of all tenants when assessing rental affordability. It promotes fairness and inclusivity, allowing households with varying income levels, such as roommates or family members sharing a rental unit, to qualify for affordable housing as long as the total rent amount remains within the prescribed income limitation.

Addressing Unique Financial Situations

The proposed rental housing system is designed to cater to a diverse range of circumstances, ensuring equitable access to affordable housing for all Canadians. In this comprehensive approach, scenarios may arise that affect renters ability to qualify for based on income; those whose income doesn’t reflect their ability to afford rent, those seeking or requiring a co-signer, and individuals with extremely low income. By considering each situation thoughtfully and implementing tailored solutions, we can create a rental housing system that is fair, inclusive, and sustainable.

In some exceptional cases, individuals may have limited income but possess significant net worth. While the proposed system primarily focuses on affordability based on income, it is crucial to ensure that the assessment of rental affordability may, at a tenant’s option, consider a more comprehensive evaluation of an individual’s financial capacity, including both income and assets. This approach promotes fairness and maintains the integrity of the rental housing market by taking into account unique circumstances that may affect an individual’s ability to afford housing solely based on income.

For individuals who need additional support to qualify for affordable housing, the inclusion of a cosigner would be accepted. In this scenario, the individual seeking housing may utilize the remaining portion of the cosigner’s income not used to qualify for their own rent or mortgage, as additional qualifying income. This approach ensures that the housing solution remains within the recommended percentage of income (e.g., 35%) for both parties, creating a balanced and equitable arrangement.

In cases where finding a cosigner is not an option, it’s important to provide a safety net for individuals with extremely low income. To ensure that no one is left behind, a maximum rent threshold should be established based on income equivalent to full-time minimum wage earnings. This ensures that individuals facing financial constraints can still access affordable housing within their means.

By incorporating these options into the rental housing system and emphasizing the need for a holistic evaluation process, we can cater to a diverse range of circumstances, ensuring the benefits of this proposal extend to all individuals, regardless of their particular situations. This approach also guarantees that rental affordability is accurately and equitably determined, providing a balanced approach to addressing exceptional situations within the broader framework of income-based affordability.

Addressing Home Office Expenses in Income Qualification

When determining rental affordability, it is essential to consider an individual’s financial capacity accurately. In this proposal, we advocate using the income reported on their tax return as the basis for qualification. This approach provides a comprehensive view of tenants’ net income before taxes, considering all earned income from various sources.

Furthermore, for individuals who work from home and claim legitimate home office expense deductions on their tax returns, it is crucial to add back these deductions to their reported income. By doing so, we ensure that tenants’ income used for qualification reflects their true financial capability, providing a fair and equitable assessment. This approach promotes a more accurate representation of tenants’ ability to afford rental housing, fostering inclusivity and fairness in the rental market.

Ensuring Long-Term Security for Tenants

To promote fairness and stability in the rental housing market across Canada, it is crucial to address the disparity between purpose-built rental units and condo rentals. Lessons learned from Ontario’s rental housing system serve as a cautionary example, where policy decisions led to a shortage of secured rental housing and resulted in the abolition of rent controls for new developments. This led to a two-tier system, where some tenants faced massive rent hikes with no limits, while others benefited from rent increases that were below the rate of inflation. This stark contrast in treatment is not only unjust but also perpetuates economic disparities and housing insecurity among renters.

To address this issue and avoid similar challenges, it is necessary to implement a policy that ensures all condo units, once rented out, are subject to the same regulations and protections as purpose-built rental units. By doing so, tenants would have greater stability and confidence in their housing situation, knowing that their rights and rental costs are governed by the same rules that apply to purpose-built rentals. This approach would create a more consistent and predictable rental market, benefiting both tenants and landlords alike. By removing some of the added incentive for developers to focus on condominiums over rental units, this shift in focus would increase the supply of rental housing in the market, alleviating the pressure on renters and providing more options for affordable and secure housing.

Financial Considerations and Incentives

To address financial concerns for landlords, rent increases would still be allowed, but they would be linked to housing-specific inflation costs such as mortgage interest rates, insurance, property taxes, and maintenance expenses. The aim is to ensure that landlords’ net income on these properties, on average, remains closely tied to inflation.This ensures that rent increases are reasonable and reflective of the actual costs incurred by landlords, while also preventing excessive rent hikes that would negatively impact tenants. By establishing a balanced and sustainable rental market, this approach provides stability and predictability for both tenants and landlords.

In addition to addressing rental affordability, this proposal aims to reduce taxes and government debt by eliminating redundant affordable housing spending. By streamlining resources and redirecting them to more effective solutions, we can achieve fiscal responsibility while still addressing the housing needs of the population. The resulting savings could also be used to reduce government-imposed costs associated with housing, such as Community Amenity Contributions (CACs), Development Cost Charges (DCCs), and property taxes. These measures alleviate the burden on taxpayers and incentivize new home construction.

Flexibility for Landlords

To ensure fairness and acknowledge the responsible actions of landlords, a provision would allow landlords to charge above the allowable rent if they have not taken advantage of those increases in the past. This provision aims to avoid penalizing landlords who have demonstrated fairness and consideration in their rent adjustments over time. By providing this flexibility, landlords are encouraged to adhere to the allowable rent increases over the long term while still allowing them to adjust rent appropriately if they have not utilized their full increase in previous periods.

This approach strikes a balance between protecting tenants from excessive rent hikes and recognizing the responsible behavior of landlords who have been considerate in their rental pricing. It rewards landlords who have not maximized their allowable rent increases in the past by giving them the opportunity to adjust rent more flexibly when necessary, without negatively impacting tenants. By implementing this provision, we create a system that promotes responsible rental practices while ensuring fairness for both tenants and landlords.

Striving for an Equitable and Sustainable Rental Housing System

In conclusion, this comprehensive proposal offers a transformative path towards creating a more equitable and sustainable rental housing system in Canada. By addressing the disconnect between income levels and rent payments, fostering long-term security for tenants, and implementing financially responsible measures, we can make a profound difference in the lives of countless individuals and families across the country.

The time is now to revolutionize affordable housing and promote fairness in the rental housing market. Through this visionary approach, we can break down barriers that have limited housing accessibility for low-income individuals, eliminate disparities in rental costs, and empower tenants to secure housing based on their actual income.

Rather than relying on separate affordable housing units, we advocate for a rental market that treats all tenants equally, regardless of when they started their tenancy. This approach promotes mobility, creates opportunities for families to thrive in their desired locations, and ensures that everyone has access to safe and secure housing.

In this journey towards an equitable rental housing system, envision a Canada where housing is not a luxury but a fundamental right for all individuals and families. This proposal seeks to unite stakeholders from various backgrounds in a common mission to transform the housing landscape. Just as a well-built home is supported by a strong foundation, an equitable society is built upon a foundation of fair housing opportunities. Let us rally together to construct this foundation, ensuring that every Canadian has a place to call home, one that provides comfort, security, and dignity.

The future of affordable housing is within our grasp, and the impact of this proposal extends far beyond words on a page. It is a blueprint for change, a testament to the power of innovative ideas, and a testament to a shared commitment to the welfare of all Canadians. Together, let us seize this opportunity to create lasting change and build a rental housing system that embodies fairness, inclusivity, and progress for generations to come.

Josh Adelberg
President – IDS GROUP

IDS GROUP is a real estate development management company based out of Vancouver. Their are-as of expertise include project financing, architectural design; project, construction, property, and as-set management; sales and leasing; land assembly, and investment. For more information, visit www.IDSgroup.ca