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Comment: Government wants housing? Then get out of the way

After two generations of unworkable government housing policy choices, it’s no wonder the private sector isn’t building rentals
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The abundance of rental housing supply came to a crashing halt in 1972 due to the counter-productive, destructive changes to the income tax rules that made rental housing investment unprofitable, writes rental housing provider Rick Kallstrom.

A commentary by a rental ­housing provider who has been a professionally licensed property manager in Victoria for more than 50 years.

Premier David Eby says it’s “hard to understand” why other politicians still believe in relying on the private sector to deliver affordable housing, and says it’s time for governments to step up.

Now, after two generations of destructive, unworkable housing policy choices that have been made by all levels of government, Eby finds that the private sector cannot do that which it is most noted for doing.

Before 1972, there was such an abundance of new, affordable rental housing being built that its production was a worry to people who feared their neighbourhoods were being destroyed.

A vacancy rate of five per cent was considered normal and balanced. Former Victoria mayor Peter Pollen was credited with stopping the “westend-ization” of James Bay by championing height controls on apartment buildings so that, today, we have just a few buildings over four (technically three) storeys in that neighbourhood. A hero for stopping production of rental housing!

The abundance of supply came to a crashing halt in 1972 due to the counter-productive, destructive changes to the income tax rules that made rental housing investment unprofitable.

This was then followed, as the rental market tightened from increasing demand and lack of supply, with ever more punitive and unworkable regulation or, more specifically, the time-consuming and unpredictable application of the rules by the Residential Tenancy Office.

Until recently, when development occurred as a result of the artificially low interest rates we have enjoyed, there was little rental housing built aside from illegal basement suites, many of which did not meet fire code, health or safety standards, and a few costly government programs.

Remember the MURB program of the late 1970s and early 1980s? After paying the cost of foregone government revenues to encourage the construction of these homes, many were resold to owner occupiers who often passed bylaws that prohibited rentals.

So it’s not that I can’t build rental housing, it’s just that Eby is in the way.

Step back and let the private sector function as it should. We will build the housing. And we’ll do it more affordably and manage it better than you will.

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