A number of new rental protections were approved by Vancouver City Council on Thursday to reinforce the City’s tenant relocation protection policies.
The changes include requiring landlords to increase tenant compensation, with two months of free rent for tenancies of up to four years and escalating to six months of free rent for tenancies of over 20 years. As well, tenants are eligible to receive compensation for moving costs of $750 for bachelor and one-bedroom units and $1,000 for two or more bedrooms.
The City will also expand tenant relocation plan requirements to more zoning districts and require landlords to offer rents at levels that do not exceed Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation average rents for the neighbourhood.
As well, tenants have the right of first refusal to move into new developments when one-for-one replacements are performed or when the new project is proposing new rental housing. Tenants who move into these units are eligible to receive a discount of 20 per cent below market rents.
The policies are being put into place in response to the rising number of ‘renovictions’ and to protect the City’s rental housing supply, which is of course in high demand. According to the municipal government, the City has one of Canada’s lowest rental vacancy rates: an average of 0.9 per cent over the last four decades.
Overall, 81 per cent of the rental housing stock is now over 36 years old and nearly 1,000 rental buildings, mostly built in the 1960s, have been renovated or demolished since 2009.
There is a need to renew aging rental housing stock, particularly in the West End neighbourhood, but the City argues some of the renovation or redevelopment activities are fuelled by the possibility of increasing profits from hiking rents.
More than half of Vancouver’s households are renters, and the units within the city proper account for 45 per cent of the rental housing stock in the Lower Mainland and over a quarter of rental housing for the entire province.
A recent report by the B.C. Housing Rental Index indicates a quarter of people living in Vancouver spend 50 per cent or more of their income on rent.