Vancouver city council passes part of new councillor’s motion to improve tenants’ rights

Srushti Gangdev / December 5, 2018

Newly elected Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson is pictured at a protest held by the Vancouver Tenants Union.
(Aaron Guillen / BCIT News)

Vancouver city council voted Tuesday night to pass two aspects of a four-pronged motion put forth by newly elected councillor Jean Swanson.

The motion aims to improve the rights of tenants in Vancouver, and shift the balance of power between landlords and tenants — which tenants advocacy groups say is far too tilted in favour of landlords.

Swanson said she had expected the city to “mush down” at least portions of the plan — and she’s not entirely sure if the remaining aspects of the motion will pass after review.

“I don’t know the staff well enough to know what they’re going to report. But tenants definitely need more protection and we definitely need vacancy control, and that’s what I’m going to be pushing for and that’s what the Vancouver Tenants Union is going to be pushing for.” — Jean Swanson, Vancouver city councillor

City council agreed to pass two aspects of Swanson’s motion:

  • BUILDING SALES

    That the city devise methods to keep track of all apartment buildings sold in Vancouver and immediately inform Vancouver tenants of their rights

  • TENANT BUYOUTS

    That the city explore measures to regulate and publicly register all tenant buyouts

Council voted to leave the other two prongs for further review by staff:

  • Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy

    That the city apply its Tenant Relocation and Protection Policy to all forms of rental accommodation (rather than just rental buildings), and require landlords to offer displaced tenants the same rent upon their guaranteed return to buildings after renovations

  • VACANCY CONTROL

    That the city call on the province to impose vacancy controls — or ask for the power to implement it within the city itself.

Swanson said a major problem affecting renters in older Vancouver buildings involves landlords evicting tenants to renovate the building, and then sending rental rates skyrocketing once renovations are complete. She said people can’t afford that kind of increase, leading to people paying extra hundreds of dollars per month, or leaving the city altogether.

“The impact for the city is that we lose affordable housing stock so that the people who actually do the work here — the people who work at Starbucks, that work at other retail stores, that work in hospitals, that serve our beer, serve our food — they won’t be able to afford to live here.” — Jean Swanson, Vancouver city councillor

Swanson also said that people commuting in to Vancouver for work because they can’t afford to live in the city has a negative impact on the environment — as people commute into the city, they bring pollution from their cars.

She’s pleased that parts of the plan were passed — and her next focus will be to make sure that the city implements those strategies straight away.

Nobody from the Vancouver Tenant’s Union or LandlordBC was immediately available for comment.

— With files from Darrian Matassa-Fung.