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Vancouver city council votes to expand renter protection

Last Updated Dec 4, 2018 at 9:17 pm PDT

Vancouver City Hall. (iStock Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The debate over renovictions continues at Vancouver City Hall as councillors vote to expand renter protections, while referring two key provisions back to staff.

Councillors unanimously agreed that Vancouver landlords cannot increase rents while tenants are temporarily displaced due to renovations, as well as to start keeping track of all apartment buildings sold in the city as a way to inform affected tenants. Council also voted in favour of looking into ways to regulate and set up a public register for all tenant buyouts.

However, the part of Coun. Jean Swanson’s motion to “immediately and forcefully call on the province” to implement vacancy controls or, alternatively, give the city the power to regulate maximum rent increases, has been sent back to city staff for further study while City Hall waits for the province’s Rental Housing Task Force report later this month. The same goes for a provision that would make the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy apply to the entire city, to all types of rentals and to all renovation permits that result in temporarily displacing renters.

NPA councillor Lisa Dominato says the complexity of the issue warrants more study so council can move forward “thoughtfully” and work out new methods and recommendations from the task force to tackle the issue of renovictions.

“We’ve heard from renters, we’ve heard from individual landlords and that was really to provide council with an opportunity to make some informed decisions and to get more information,” says Dominato. “But we did ask for staff to come back early in teh new year with their recommendations.”

Pete Fry, first time Green Party councillor, says in the last two weeks council has heard from almost 100 speakers who told stories of some “unscrupulous” landlords who, he says, employ bullying tactics to force renters out of apartments so they can renovate and flip the places for profit. With respect to the items which are back with city staff, he says council needs more time because it requires provincial intervention to change the Vancouver Charter or the Resident Tenancy Act for one part, while expanding protection policy to include secondary suites raised some concerns with councillors that it may end up in exacerbating the “rental crisis.”

“What we’ve heard was compelling enough to send a real signal that as a council – and as a brand-new council – we are committed to standing up for renters in our city,” says Fry. “And I think you’ll see changes and results soon and there’s a real impetus forward momentum to make these changes.

— with files from Taran Parmar