Wilkinson under fire for appearing out of touch amid B.C.’s rental crisis

The Opposition leader recounted his time as a renter while critizing the NDP’s rental protections

BC Liberal Opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson is under fire for remarks he made about the province’s rental crisis.

On Wednesday at the legislature, Wilkinson lamented how the NDP’s policies on rental protection dissuades people from becoming landlords, using his own experience to question the need for legislation that protects renters from rate hikes and instability.

He described his 15 years as a young renter in B.C. as a “fact of life that’s a rite of passage.

“I lived in a dozen different rentals. It was challenging at times, but it was fun,” said Wilkinson, who’s in his 60s. “It was part of growing up and getting better. We’ve all done it. It’s kind of a wacky time of life, but it can be really enjoyable.”

READ MORE: Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna home to Canada’s most expensive rentals: report

READ MORE: Almost half of B.C. renters spend more than 30% of income on housing

He went on to say that Premier John Horgan and his government have tried “to pander to renters” with their unfulfilled election promise of a $400 renters’ rebate.

“Nothing has been done. They’ve put all kinds of restricted caps on the behaviour of landlords around changing rents, long-term leases and renovation of apartments. The net effect is that people are getting out of the landlord market. Why would you go and take that on?”

READ MORE: Young professionals leaving Vancouver over high cost of housing

READ MORE: B.C. to partner with cities, churches to build new affordable housing

The NDP were quick to criticize Wilkinson, who has served as MLA for Vancouver-Quilchena since 2013.

In the past, Wilkinson has spoken about how the unattainable housing market in B.C. likely means his children will have to move away as they grow up – making headlines in October after becoming emotional while talking to members of the Surrey Board of Trade.

Since taking office, the Horgan government has implemented a 30-point housing plan in part to combat the 1.4 per cent average rental vacancy rate in the province. In September, they reversed their prior decision of allowing landlords to increase rent by 4.5 per cent, instead capping it to the rate of inflation, or 2.5 per cent.

READ MORE: Renters struggle to find homes as prices climb, availability declines

READ MORE: Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who heads the government’s rental housing task force, fired back at Wilkinson in a news release, questioning his understanding of the challenges B.C. residents face.

“Renting is not just a wacky and fun phase for most people, especially after the BC Liberals let the cost of home ownership skyrocket for years,” Chandra Herbert said. “Now, Andrew Wilkinson is proposing to increase rents further, making life even harder and more expensive for renters.”

READ MORE: Most people in B.C. say landlords should be able to reject tenants with pets: poll

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