Skyrocketing property evaluations & lack of housing: a perfect storm


I received a lot of feedback on my March 13 editorial, “Lonely, Little Houses”, and a picture of a much graver situation began to emerge. The issue isn’t limited to a lack of available housing; it appears there is an attack on private property itself.

This attack has two fronts affecting housing: the stripping of property rights from landlords and insane hikes in property evaluations and taxes which could drive people out of their homes.

I heard from a landlord who owns several properties in the Pontiac. In her March 27 letter titled “Bad tenants aren’t worth it” she described some harrowing experiences with renters who did much damage to her property, at a cost more than the total rent paid. She explained how even in those situations, the law is on the tenant’s side, making it nearly impossible to evict someone or recoup financial loss.

It does seem that the law has tilted so far in favour of tenants’ “rights” that it has removed the incentive for property owners to consider renting out units. Why would they, knowing that their property could be destroyed with no recourse in a system rigged against them? Considering the objective of tenant activism is to increase the availability and affordability of housing, it’s hard to understand how these activists don’t see the folly in pushing for rules that create great risk for landlords, thus discouraging rentals.

In the situations described above, the landlord is stripped of their property rights in favour of their tenant’s “rights”. This system will never work to create access to affordable housing. The law needs to move back to a place of balance, as the law always should, to fairly consider both the rights of tenants and landlords.

The second front in this situation is skyrocketing property evaluations, resulting in massive property tax hikes. It’s hard to understand how any level of government can justify raising a property’s value by twenty times, as we’ve recently seen in some instances in the Pontiac, causing property taxes to double, or even triple. How can people be expected to absorb that? And the best our elected officials have to offer is to shrug, point fingers and pass the buck. “Just doing my job! Just following procedure! That’s how it be!”

Many people live in the rural Outaouais because that’s where they can afford to live. But what happens when even life here becomes unaffordable? When there’s nowhere else to go?

A report recently released by the RCMP titled “Whole-of-Government-Five-Year Trends for Canada” looked at shifts in domestic and international environments that could have a significant effect on the Canadian government and policing. The report considered several areas of concern including “popular resentment”, noting that the decline in living standards experienced by the younger generation, including the near impossibility of homeownership, could pose a threat to future social cohesion.

What’s the answer, you ask? I don’t know. But it isn’t raising taxes or removing all incentives for a property owner to rent out an empty dwelling.