Four-year rent freeze
The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver now exceeds $2000. This approaches the entire monthly income of a full-time minimum wage worker -- about $2200 as of June 1, 2018. People have nothing left for groceries, clothing, school supplies, and bus fare. If rents continue to increase at the current rate, the average one-bedroom will cost $4,350 by the 2021 civic elections. Vancouver needs a Rent Freeze now.
Vancouver City Council should officially request that the provincial government immediately set a 0% rent increase over the next four years.
Municipal Rent Control Board:
Because the rental market in Vancouver is unique, the City should design a Municipal Rent Control Board, with tenant representation, to set local rent control mechanisms. The powers of the Municipal Rent Control Board should be added to the Vancouver Charter.
Municipal housing agreements:
The City can apply a Rent Freeze immediately to all new housing developments. Under the Vancouver Charter, the City of Vancouver has the power to require that developers enter into a “housing agreement” as a condition of issuing a development permit. All development permits for rental housing should require housing agreements that maintain rents at current levels for the next four years.
Tie rent control to the unit
While the current allowable annual rent increase is 4%, the regulation does not apply between tenancies, also known as ‘vacancy decontrol’. Every time a tenant moves out, the landlord can increase the rent as much as the market will bear. As a result, overall rents in the city have gone up by 20% in just the last year.
The Province can immediately stop renovictions across BC by removing the incentive for renovictions. The Province needs to modify the BC Residential Tenancy Act to apply rent control to the unit and not to tenancy -- as used to be the case in the 1970s. This is the most effective way of stopping unnecessary and predatory evictions. We need a City Council that will pressure the Province to make this change and put a stop to such unjust evictions once and for all.
The lack of rent control between tenancies gives landlords an incentive to evict long-time tenants. One common strategy landlords use is to serve an eviction notice, claiming they need to renovate the apartment. Often these renovations are cosmetic or unnecessary. This is called a “renoviction”.
The City can stop renovictions now:
The City has the power to eliminate the incentive for landlords to renovict tenants by requiring, as a condition of issuing building permits, that landlords maintain rents at existing levels after work is completed. With its current powers under the Vancouver Charter, the City can institute a Rent Freeze in rental units that undergo renovations right now. It has the power, it only needs to enforce it.
Right of return:
The City’s Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy provides monetary compensation to renovicted tenants but that doesn’t really prevent renovictions from happening. It’s just an extra cost landlords have to shoulder. The City can and should ensure that, as a condition of issuing a building permit or development permit involving rental units, landlords prove they have found suitable interim accommodation at the same rent for all tenants who will be displaced due to renovations; and that there is a signed contract that gives tenants the right to move back into their unit, or a new replacement unit, at the same rents they were previously paying once renovations are complete. This would weaken the incentive to renovict and it only requires expanding the existing policy.
Improve living conditions for tenants
Another way to prevent renovictions is to ensure rental buildings are well-maintained. If landlords are incentivized to renovict tenants, they are also incentivized to let affordable rental buildings run down until they must be renovated and as a result become less affordable. Vancouver has been gradually losing more of its affordable housing stock through this flawed process.
In the 1970s, through the efforts of the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association (DERA), the City was forced to adopt the Standards of Maintenance bylaw, which requires landlords to maintain the living conditions of rental buildings or get fined. Today, the City picks and chooses when to enforce it and in many slumlord buildings the bylaw isn’t enforced at all. As a result tenants have to put up with poor living conditions and have no way of forcing landlords to do necessary repairs.
Enforce standards of maintenance bylaw:
The City needs to have inspectors regularly check building conditions. If repairs are not done, the City needs to take the responsibility for carrying them out and bill the owner. This is in accordance with the section 23.8 of the Standards of Maintenance bylaw.
If the owner doesn’t pay their bills or fines, the City will have the power to expropriate the building for our City-owned housing stock.
Moratorium on demolitions of rental buildings
Rental housing stock is under threat in Vancouver and other cities. The development industry has been pushing for deregulation of rental neighbourhoods so they can tear down our affordable rental stock and replace it with luxury housing.
Demolition or redevelopment of rental buildings causes displacement of hundreds of renters every year. From 2009 to 2015 Vancouver tenants were evicted from an average of 50 rental buildings, a loss of more than 300 apartments annually.
Over the past 30 years in Vancouver, tenant advocates have succeeded in pushing the City to preserve rental stock through the “Rate of Change” bylaw, which states that, in some areas, rental buildings with more than 6 units can only be redeveloped if replacement buildings contain the same number of rental units. However, the new units are not required to be affordable and the evicted tenants are not allowed Right of First Refusal, ie. the right to return at previous rents.
The City should not issue any demolition permits when the vacancy rate is below 4% (it is currently below 1%). At other times, demolition permits should only be issued under a regulated Rate of Change bylaw (0% net loss of rental units) throughout the entire city. A strong tenant relocation policy must enforce Right of First Refusal at previous rents for all displaced tenants.
End all discrimination against tenants
Discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, or income:
Offer legal support and advocacy for tenants who have grievances related to contravention of tenant rights under the BC Human Rights Code.
According to the BC SPCA, 1,774 animals were surrendered to their shelters because of “no pets” restrictions in 2016. City Council should build a public campaign to pressure the province to change the RTA to meet the requests of Pets OK BC.