City of Vancouver closes renter office, "leaving renters in the cold"

Jan 19 2023, 5:50 pm

After a lot of debate at Wednesday night’s council meeting at Vancouver City Hall, the Vancouver Renter Office has been shut down.

Condemnation of the move from the non-ABC Vancouver councillors was swift.

Green Party councillors Pete Fry, Adriane Carr, and OneCity Vancouver councillor Christine Boyle made a joint statement saying that the move is “leaving renters in the cold.”

They were the only three non-ABC councillors who voted to keep the office.

According to the City of Vancouver website, the renter office was designed to protect Vancouver renters and give them a first point of contact to answer questions, provide information about policies and permits, and refer renters to organizations that could help.

Councillor Fry issued a tweet reflecting on the election promise from ABC Vancouver to “strengthen protections and supports for Vancouver’s existing market and non-market housing rental stock.”

Others have weighed in on the decision to close the Vancouver Renter Office, saying the move puts more power in the hands of landlords.

Fry also commented that many landlords take part in “dubious” practices in Vancouver that negatively impact renters and that this move will take away one more way for renters to take back some of their power. Fry was the one who presented the motion to create this office in 2018, at a time when many in the city were being forced out of their homes due to illegal renovictions.

“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,” said Boyle.

One of the reasons ABC councillors voted in favour of getting rid of the office is that there are provincial counterparts who do a lot of work to advocate for renters. However, Fry said groups like the Residential Tenancy Branch aren’t resourced to address some issues impacting Vancouver renters.

Councillor Carr called it a risk to hand this responsibility off to another party.

ABC councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung pushed back on the idea that this takes away services from renters, suggesting that this was a good move for them because it would potentially put more power in the hands of those with legal expertise.

“To characterize this as taking services away or this is part of the ABC majority to take services away from renters, it’s actually about serving them better,” said Kirby-Yung.

Councillor Lenny Zhou echoed the sentiment.

“As a city, we should empower professional people,” Zhou said.

In the end, it’s likely councillor Boyle’s statement that will ring most true for Vancouver renters.

“Life is hard for renters in Vancouver, and now ABC has chosen to make that even harder.”

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