Friday, January 25, 2008

RENT (not the Broadway musical)

As I’m leaving the land of really crazy rent (Whistler), it makes me wonder if rents are going to stay where they are in Vancouver. Compared to the rest of the country, rent in Vancouver is not that bad. It’s not the priciest, by far. But the real estate is, so why the discrepancy? Maybe the rents are going to have to go up in Vancouver soon to reflect the cost of buying. I’d have thought they’d be connected, as so many rental suites are condos or basement suites that someone bought as an investment or ‘mortgage helper’.

Or maybe the rents won’t go up. Maybe the competition from the basement suites & apartments that were bought waaaay back when real estate was reasonable will keep the rents down. Hm.

It’s an interesting issue for a lefty like me to decide how much money to ask for our ground-floor suites. There is an element of ‘landlord guilt’: I have now become one of the petit-bourgeoisie! Ack! I’ve got a red star tattoo! I used to be a card-carrying Socialist! I’ve joined the dark side!

On the one hand, $750 for a one-bedroom suite (heat, hot water & electricity included) seems high. That’s nearly 60% of before-tax income for a full-time minimum wage worker. I never paid that much in rent when I was renting, between 1997 & 2006.

On the other hand, $750 only comes out to about 20% of the average person’s before-tax income in BC. It’s in line with other places in our area. Theoretically the person who lives in our suite would not need a car, as we are so central. And while it’s true I never paid that much myself, it was because I shared with roommates. The last one-bedroom place I lived in was $700 plus electricity. That was eight years ago.

Part of my plan to assuage my ‘landlord guilt’ is to provide decent housing. Our plan is to fix the suites up beyond the point where they’re just ‘rentable’. I want to paint them completely, fix the bathroom floors & broken tiles, install proper emergency exit-able security bars, add cabinet latches… it’s a long list. I don’t want my tenants to resent me because I never fix anything. I don’t want my tenants to trash the place because it was in crappy condition when they got it anyway. I want to create a space that someone can make home & be proud of.

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