No room (for rent) in Saskatchewan

Low vacancy rates mean the issue of rent control has inched its way into the provincial election


Rent control might be an issue more commonly associated with a heaving metropolis like New York City, where mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan made an Internet meme of himself last year with his exclamation that the “rent is too damn high.” But the issue has now reached comparatively sleepy, but economically booming, Saskatchewan.

In Regina, the vacancy rate is around one per cent and with monthly rates on the rise, affordable housing and the availability of rental properties are looming as key issues in the provincial election. The provincial NDP is promising, if elected, to commit $321 million over four years toward a plan that would increase the number of units, help first-time homebuyers and introduce “next generation rent control” that would include “allowances for new construction and non-corporate landlords.” Premier Brad Wall of the incumbent Saskatchewan Party has proposed a first-time homebuyer tax credit, but has only voiced support for a “voluntary” rent control system—as championed by the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Industry Association—that aims to facilitate agreements between tenants and landlords.

Last month, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce released a report arguing that rent control has little impact on prices, while discouraging both the creation of new rental properties and the renovation of existing properties. “The concept of government intervention into rental rates, into any market place this dramatically, doesn’t make sense,” says chamber CEO Steve McLellan. The chamber would prefer changes to the tax code to encourage market expansion. “What the government should do is eliminate barriers to new growth,” McLellan says.

Barring some kind of solution, McMillan’s The Rent Is Too Damn High party may have to consider expanding north.

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No room (for rent) in Saskatchewan

  1. “rent control has little impact on prices, while discouraging both the creation of new rental properties and the renovation of existing properties”
    Keep repeating this.

  2. Rent control is only one element of many that have come together to ensure that rental affordability in any non-depressed (read: anywhere between staganat and hot) area of the country has become difficult. Unfortunately, the complete removal of or relaxation of (intertenancy) rent control regimes will indeed do very little to increase the supply of rental housing in Canada.

    Simply, there is not enough surplus income in the overall bracket of renters to make the construction of rental accommodations worthwhile for prospective builders and investors. In general, those who can afford to buy do and the bulk of the remainder are left to rent what’s available. The free(er) ability to raise the rents on already-existing rental units will only serve to make it more difficult in the absence of a suitable base of middle-income individuals who are satisfied renting properties.

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