Burnaby city council approves new compensation levels for rental tenants

Dec 5 2019, 8:37 pm

Earlier this week, Burnaby city council approved a series of new measures that expand the rights of rental housing tenants.

The updated Tenant Assistance Policy creates new standards for tenants of purpose-built rental buildings of five units or more that require rezoning due to a redevelopment or renovation.

According to the municipal government, such policies are needed due to Burnaby’s low rental vacancy rates and rising average rents. More importantly, 94% of all existing purpose-built market rental units in the city were built before the 1980s and are increasingly being eyed for redevelopment or renovation, which often displaces longtime residents.

The changes apply to all new rezonings and all rezoning applications currently being considered by the city.

“Our updated Tenant Assistance Policy will make life more affordable for Burnaby residents, even as our city continues to grow,” said Mayor Mike Hurley in a statement. “Burnaby is a diverse city and this will keep our communities that way. This policy delivers on a key recommendation from the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Housing.”

Two primary compensation streams can now be chosen by tenants forced to leave their homes.

One stream requires landlords to provide three suitable alternative accommodation options, with the tenant selecting their preferred option and continuing to pay the same rent for the temporary accommodations. Any additional rent for the temporary accommodations will be paid by the property owner.

A second stream allows tenants to find their own temporary accommodations and inform the property owner of their choice.

Under this second stream, if chosen by the tenant, the property owner must provide a monthly rent “top-up” based on a formula that uses Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Rental Market Survey median rents. For example, a lump sum in a single payment under the second stream for a period of 36 months — the estimated time in which temporary accommodation will be provided — is equal to a $24,912.

But for tenants whose current rents are equal to or greater than CMHC Median Rent, the lump sum payment would be 15% of their current rent multiplied by 36 months. A tenant of a one-bedroom unit in Metrotown, for instance, that rents at $1,600 per month would receive $8,640.

Additionally, the city has expanded the required level of assistance a property owner must provide for moving expenses, with compensation now ranging between $900 and $1,400, as well as the right of first refusal to return to their renovated unit or to purchase or rent any new units from a site redevelopment.

These heightened protections for rental housing tenants follows a number of new policies approved by Burnaby city council earlier this year, including requiring new multi-family developments to dedicate 20% of their residential space for rentals and replace all rental units lost in community plan areas.

In June, Vancouver city council also approved new measures that expand rental tenant rights.