Two major policy directives in an aim to better protect renters within Vancouver were approved by city council in separate public meetings this week.
On Tuesday, city council unanimously approved a number of amendments to the Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy, with the most significant policy change being increased levels of compensation for renters forced to relocate from their homes due to redevelopments.
Cash compensations have been heightened, particularly for longer-term tenants who are more likely to be affected by the burden and costs of relocation:
Other compensations for moving expenses remain unchanged, but there will be an additional stipend of up to $2,500 for tenants with special circumstances, such as disabilities and pets.
These new compensation levels will only apply to redevelopments during the development permit process, including renovations and demolitions. Renovations as a result of a building permit are not covered in this new compensation policy.
The existing right of first refusal at 20% below new market rents for tenants returning to redeveloped sites will be maintained as there would be significant financial challenges to housing providers and developers if this rate is any lower.
Additionally, the proposed policy will require landlords to enhance their approach for assisting tenants with finding new accommodations, and increase the level of communication between tenants and the redevelopment team.
Some lesser-impact reforms are also proposed for tenants of non-profit housing, as well as longer-term actions to address other gaps in the rental housing market and tenancy laws.
The next day, on Wednesday morning, city council also green-lit the creation of a new Renter Centre — a renters’ office that assists tenants, supports legal advocacy, tracks the resolution of issues raised by tenants in rental buildings, and coordinates rental issues between city departments and external agencies and organizations.
A centralized one-stop service centre and office for this new department could be located within a 5,500-sq-ft city-owned retail unit at 900 Howe Street in downtown, but it will not be available until 2021 when an existing lease contract expires.
City staff are exploring opportunities to collaborate and colocate its new Renter Centre with the provincial government and Residential Tenancy Branch.
“There is potential that a Renter Centre, developed in partnership with the Provincial Government, may have an expanded mandate to support renters across Vancouver and the Metro region,” reads a city staff report.
“City investment in this Renter Centre will be focussed on Vancouver renters and staff will track where any non-Vancouver users are from.”
City staff also noted strong interest was expressed from non-profit organizations for the use of a physical centre as a hub for community groups to network, collaborate, and share resources and knowledge.
Until the Renter Centre has a physical space, the new department’s service could be phased in with interim programming that improves access to supports, education, and advocacy for local renters.
The total budget for the new Renter Centre — inclusive of program development, physical investments, staffing, and associated renter services — will be $1.56 million in 2019, rising to $2.4 million in 2021.