NDP MLA Emily Tredger is calling on the Liberal government to close what she called a “loophole” on the new rent cap in the territory.
Tredger tabled a petition by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition that calls for a moratorium on evictions without cause for as long as the rent cap is in place.
The rent cap stipulates any yearly rental increases will be tied to inflation. For 2021, it means rent can only be increased by a maximum of one per cent, based on the 2020 consumer price index for Whitehorse.
The rent cap was part of an NDP policy that falls under an agreement the Liberals have with the NDP, which secured the Liberals’ minority government.
The petition called for the moratorium in response to a number of reported evictions that are happening due to the rent cap.
On the last day of the fall sitting of the legislature, Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn spoke to the petition, arguing the territory cannot simply bring an end to evictions without cause.
“To make this change requires an amendment to the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act,” he said. “Because the right to end tenancies without cause is in the act, we cannot repeal it by regulation.”
He went on to point to the agreement between the NDP and the Liberals, noting it was recognized the rent cap is an interim measure aimed at giving immediate support to renters.
“We anticipated and flagged challenges with this policy, and we now know the rent cap had significant negative impacts on the rental market — and we are hearing about it every day,” Mostyn said. “Not only has it caused some evictions — which, as I said earlier, are heart-rending — but it has also undermined the financial applications for some apartment block sales.”
Over the two-year deal between the two parties, Mostyn said the government will explore how to proceed, with a goal of regulations that meet the needs of “landlords, tenants and all Yukoners.”
“We recognize that Yukon’s economic prosperity relies on making available housing that meets people’s needs,” he said. “Legislative change will be considered; however, it will require careful work to ensure that it meets the needs of tenants and landlords, that it is balanced, that it meets the needs of everyone. Our goal is to ensure tenants can access affordable housing and that landlords will continue to invest in Yukon’s robust rental market.”
Speaking to reporters following question period, Tredger pointed out the Liberal government had actually banned evictions without cause through an order-in-council at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So it’s hard to buy that it was possible last year, and it’s impossible this year,” she said, going on to argue that she had flagged evictions as a possible loophole in early meetings about the rent cap. She later commented that the Liberal government has chosen to implement the rent cap in a way that leaves a big loophole.
“We have pleaded with him to change it,” Tredger said. “We have done everything we can think of behind closed doors to get this changed. And we’re still in the same situation.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch people be evicted in winter.”
She said after attempting to address the issue in meetings, what’s left to try to address the issue is public pressure.
“I think ultimately, the people who have the power to make the changes, to make that decision to issue the order-in-council that would stop people from losing their homes so that landlords can raise rent, the people with that power is the Liberals, and I really, really hope that they will listen to these stories of people losing their homes in the middle of the winter and act to protect tenants because Yukon tenants deserve those protections.”
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