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Burnaby's new rules to stop renovictions raising alarms for developers

Last Updated Dec 3, 2019 at 5:46 pm PDT

FILE: Metrotown renters protest demovictions on July 15, 2016. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Some alarm bells are going off about proposed changes to keep renters from getting evicted in Burnaby

New rules would require developers to let renters displaced by renovations pay the same rent if they choose to return

A spokesperson for the Urban Development Institute says it could discourage some owners from renovating older buildings

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – City council in Burnaby is moving forward with changes to protect renters from so-called renovictions, but a group representing developers cautions it could backfire.

The new Tenant Assistance Policy, which Mayor Mike Hurley is calling “the most progressive” policy of its kind in Canada, was approved in principle by council on Monday.

RELATED: Housing advocates raise concerns about Metrotown redevelopment

If passed, property owners would have to help displaced tenants find new housing and let them pay the same rent if they choose to return. They would also be required to help them with moving and top up payments if tenants can’t find similar accommodations elsewhere.

The goal is to ensure displaced tenants are compensated, but plans to make the rules retro-active means people evicted up to two years ago could come back.

Anne McMullin, the CEO of the Urban Development Institute which represents developers, says the updated policy could discourage some owners from renovating buildings with five or more units.

“The intentions are good – well let’s protect the tenant, the tenant, the tenant, and that’s good – but if it goes to the point that it’s no longer viable, then it actually hurts the tenant. We won’t improve the building, then the building starts to deteriorate […] limiting the ability to build the homes that we need,” she says.

RELATED: Vancouver approves rules to boost compensation for renovicted renters

McMullin says property owners could also be compensating displaced tenants for several months.

“It can take up to two years, three years, four years to go through a rezoning application, and then maybe part way through, the builder may say ‘I can’t do it,’ because of market changes, interest rates, property taxes,” she says, adding the city may even say they don’t want the project to go ahead.

The changes in the new rules stem from recommendations made by the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing to develop stronger protections for renters, and follow a new rental-only zoning bylaw which mandates demolished buildings be replaced at a one-to-one ratio.

The policy hasn’t been finalized: the city will be doing consultations with stakeholders before the new rules can be approved.