ABC majority kills Vancouver Renters Office, leaving renters in the cold

Published Jan 18, 2023 8:56 PM

ABC majority kills Vancouver Renters Office, leaving renters in the cold

In a city where the majority of citizens are renters, ABC shows that they don’t have renters’ backs

VANCOUVER, B.C. Vancouver Councillors Pete Fry (Green Party), Christine Boyle (OneCity Vancouver), and Adriane Carr (Green Party) are jointly condemning the move today by ABC Vancouver’s Mayor and Council majority to discontinue the Vancouver Renters Office, which provides information and assistance around tenants’ rights to renters throughout this city, in the midst of a housing affordability crisis.

The majority of Vancouverites - 55% of Vancouver households - rent their homes, and renters call every neighbourhood in this city home. They are under increasing pressure thanks to our continuing housing crisis: vacancy rates are below 1% in most of the city, and rents are among the highest in the country. 

Rents soar every day, making it impossible to move, as moving - for whatever reason - could mean a renter’s housing costs jump. This dynamic gives landlords a significant amount of power, which some abuse through renovictions and demovictions. The Vancouver Renters’ Office exists to correct this power imbalance - informing tenants of their rights and helping them navigate an often-complex legal system to stand up for themselves.

Tonight’s move shows that ABC Vancouver dismisses tenants’ rights out of hand.

In 2022 rental homes in Vancouver saw an average year-over-year increase of 16.8% for one-bedroom units and 17.9% for two bedrooms, with average rents of $2,600 a month for a one-bedroom and $3,500 a month for a two-bedroom. 

Despite provincial limits to year-over-year rent increases, these pressures result in significantly increased rents when people need to move, and can lead to increased renovictions in older rental homes. As an October 2022 report from City staff outlines, “The long-term risks of eviction or displacement are most acute for those with lower incomes, health issues, language barriers and/or who need specified housing options that are in low supply (e.g. family-sized apartments, accessible units, pet friendly homes).”

Vancouver’s Renters Office was launched through a Council motion in 2018, moved by Cllr Fry and seconded by Cllr Boyle. The Renters Office has been funded through revenue from the Empty Homes Tax.

Today’s staff report recommended “continuation of services for renters through the Renters Office, particularly for renters impacted by City plans, policies and regulations such as the Vancouver Plan, Broadway Plan and the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy”. The report also recommended continuation of Renter Services Grants, as well as improvements to a city owned space to be leased to TRAC (Tenant Resource & Advisory Centre Society) to provide in person tenant support services that complement the work of the Vancouver Renters Office.

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Councillor Pete Fry:
“When I presented the motion to create this office back in 2018 we as a City were faced with a scourge of illegal renovictions, including for “work” that did not secure any of the necessary  city permits (if they actually did the work at all). We had and have a scourge of rental units in our city converted to short term rentals, we have unscrupulous landlords gaming fixed tenancy agreements and failing to maintain safe, dignified upkeep,” says Councillor Pete Fry with the Green Party. “As a City we waive tens of millions in Community Amenity Contributions and Developer Cost Levies to incentivize the building of new rental properties. Robust toolkit of policies to protect and – where necessary- relocate renters displaced by development that we approve.”

Councillor Christine Boyle:
“If you’re young, if you’re working-class, or if you just moved here recently, you’re probably a renter. But this city is still your home, and City Hall should have your back. I cannot understand why Ken Sim and ABC have chosen to defund our city’s Renters Office,” said Councillor Christine Boyle with OneCity Vancouver. “The effects of this cut will be heaviest on older tenants who have lived in their place for a long time, renters whose first language isn’t English, and other newcomers and low-income renters. Dealing with an unscrupulous landlord, eviction pressures, rising rents, and unstable housing is difficult. Life is hard for renters in Vancouver, and now ABC has chosen to make that even harder.”

Councillor Adriane Carr:
“It makes no sense to me that ABC Councillors voted unanimously to transition the work of Vancouver’s Renter Office to other service providers when we established the office precisely because no one else was providing the services we initiated, especially helping renters avoid eviction. We have a good reputation for helping vulnerable Vancouver residents. I think that’s good government and we should continue providing that needed service.”

Renter Office Update and Direction - Report available here: https://council.vancouver.ca/20230117/documents/r3.pdf