B.C. NDP mostly delivers on renters' rebate promised in 2017 — as a tax credit
The B.C. NDP has delivered, in part, on an election promise made in 2017 to provide a $400 rebate to renters in the province.
It comes in the 2023/2024 budget presented Tuesday but will be in the form of a tax credit and only be available in full to renters whose adjusted annual income is $60,000 or less.
The new income-tested credit will provide a portion of the $400 to renter households making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year. The thresholds will be indexed to inflation each year.
Families filing their taxes together will only be eligible for one credit, while individuals rooming together will each be able to receive up to $400.
Ahead of the 2017 provincial election, when the B.C. NDP came to power, the party pledged to help tenants with a $400 rebate to offset skyrocketing rents.
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A renters' rebate was again a plank of the B.C. NDP's platform ahead of the 2020 election, with households earning up to $80,000 a year promised $400.
Not delivering on the promise had been repeatedly brought up by the B.C. Liberals.
Tax credit will go to 80% of renting households: budget
In her speech to the legislature, Finance Minister Katrine Conroy said her budget was addressing affordability issues and now was the time to bring in more relief for renters.
"If you're renting your home ... every month can feel like a stretch," she said. "Never mind saving up for a down payment.
"I hear you. Our government is working for you."
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More than one in three households in the province are renters. The budget says the new program will affect more than 80 per cent of renting households.
"Relative to the general population, renters are more likely to be younger, have lower income, and be single," reads the fiscal plan. "Approximately 30 per cent of renting households are families."
The credit will be available starting on 2023 tax returns, which will be filed next year. Residents who receive income and disability assistance or support from the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) or Shelter Aid for Elderly will qualify for it.
To access the credit, renters must be 19 or older and occupy their accommodation for at least six months of the year.
The budget document said it expected the credit will return more than $300 million a year back to B.C. renters.
Saanich mayor Dean Murdock said that while money for renters is appreciated, people need help now.
"That's money that won't arrive till next year," he said.
Murdock said that some people are paying up to $18,000 a year in rent, and that $400 a year isn't particularly helpful.
Paul Kershaw, who studies affordability and demographics through UBC's Generation Squeeze Lab, said the relief is important.
"I think the renter's tax credit delivers on promise made in an election campaign from the past," he said. "I think delivering on promises matters. Will $400 a year transform the ability of people to afford rent in this province? Absolutely not, but it's one additional incremental help."
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In 2017 when the NDP made its promise, monthly rents in Metro Vancouver were, on average, $1,236 a month. That figure now is $1,675 a month. A difference of $439.
Tuesday's budget also earmarked an additional $4.2 billion over the next three years for other housing initiatives, such as building new housing and revitalizing and expanding B.C. Housing's aging rental stock.