With astronomical eviction numbers and nowhere to go, British Columbia “returns to normal”

The Balanced Supply of Housing Research Cluster at the University of British Columbia released a report last week, “Estimating no-fault evictions in Canada: Understanding BC’s disproportionate eviction rate in the 2021 Canadian housing survey”. Looking at data from the 2021 Canadian Housing Survey, researchers wanted to find out eviction rates, reasons for evictions, and what happened in the first period of the Covid pandemic. On all counts, British Columbia scored the highest, or failed the most profoundly, depending on one’s perspective. Between April 2016 and early 2021, 10.5% of B.C. renter households reported being forced to move, compared with the national rate of 5.9%. At some level, none of this was surprising or new, since British Columbia has consistently led the nation in evictions. What was new is this: “British Columbia’s high eviction rate is driven by higher rates of no-fault evictions …. 85% of evictions reported by renter households in British Columbia in the five years prior to data collection were no-fault evictions.” Paid your rent on time, the landlord never had any issues with you, you were an ideal tenant? Who cares? You’re out. And not only are you out, you have nowhere to go. They call that market-forces justice.

Here’s more market forces justice. Most provinces had some sort of eviction ban during the Covid pandemic, and yet the number of evictions remained relatively stable. How can that be? According to the report, there are at least two reasons. First, once the bans were lifted, eviction processes were “accelerated”. Second, “despite all the eviction bans that were implemented, at least 38,900 – 68,080 renter households were evicted during the first year of the pandemic in Canada.” Were landlords punished for these evictions? No. That too is market-forces justice.

In British Columbia, there is rent control for those who living in a unit. There are no controls or limits on how much a landlord can charge a new tenant. There are no real controls on no-fault evictions. A landlord simply has to claim they want to sell, inhabit, renovate, repair, or demolish the property. There’s no requirement of proof of any kind. Many of those who were evicted report that their former homes remain vacant for months, even years, afterwards. There’s no enforcement because there’s nothing to enforce.

Fiona Scott lives in Vancouver. In the past decade, she endured three no-fault evictions. The last one was over a year ago. The unit she used to call home remains vacant to this day. Meanwhile Fiona Scott lives in a much smaller apartment, for which she pays $500 more a month, and so has had to take on extra work. “You have an emotional connection to your house, it’s your safe space… and then all of a sudden it’s gone. It wasn’t an emotional journey I was prepared for.”

Linda de Gonzalez is a 70-year-old pensioner who has lived in her apartment for 20 years. This year the landlord raised the rent 43%, starting in June. But what about rent control? The landlord said that if de Gonzalez didn’t accept the exorbitant increase, he’d sell the unit. Again, there’s no requirement of proof. “It really was utterly and completely devastating. I literally felt my stomach fall out. I just sat on the floor and I cried and I cried and I cried. And I kept thinking what am I going to do? I have nowhere to go.” I have nowhere to go.

A second report, issued by Vancouver’s First United Church Eviction Mapping Project, found that 27% of evicted people had not found a place to live. 45% of Indigenous respondents had not found a place to live. 31% of people of color had not found a place to live. 34% of people living with disabilities had not found a place to live. For those in the lowest income bracket, 53% had not found a place to live. “People with an annual income of less than $50,000 were almost three times as likely to become homeless than those with an annual income of over $50,000.” Meanwhile, 12% of those earning more than $50,000 a year had not found a place to live. Of those who did find somewhere to live, for most it had to be in a new neighborhood, meaning no support systems. 80% of evicted residents reported neighborhood displacement. For evicted Indigenous residents, that was 91%.

The report notes, “For many evicted tenants, homelessness was long-term as they struggled to find a way back into the rental housing market amidst massive increases in the amount of rent landlords are charging.” Homeless was, and is, long-term.

As Anne Waldman once wrote,

“it is error it is speculation it is real estate

      it is the villain and comic slippery words

            the work of despotic wills to make money”

Nowhere to go, nowhere to go, nowhere to go.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Infographic: The University of British Columbia)