Carole James Vows to Protect Renters

By Doug Ward

Vancouver Sun

The NDP would amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prevent landlords from using minor renovations as an excuse to sharply raise rents, party leader Carole James pledged Sunday in Vancouver.

James told a crowd of about 100 West End residents that an NDP government would close a loophole that allows landlords to evict renters in order to perform renovations, after which they substantially raise rents.

Too many landlords, she said, are “putting [on] a coat of paint, fixing up a sink in a bathroom and saying: ‘By the way, your rent is going up $200.’

“Well, that has to stop.”

Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords can only increase rents for continuing tenants by a certain amount each year — 3.7 per cent in 2008.

But one loophole allows landlords to evict tenants, do renovations and then increase the rent for the renovated units.

James said the issue of eviction through renovation — which rental activists call “renovictions” — is an issue in other B.C. communities.

Renters have traditionally been a core part of the NDP’s base in urban ridings.

The NDP event was staged in front of the Berkeley Apartments on Bute Street, owned by landlord Satnam Singh Gandham, who applied to the city last year for permission to gut the red brick, three-storey walkup for a complete renovation.

Spencer Herbert, incumbent NDP candidate in Vancouver-West End, told the rally that tenants in the Berkeley have yet to receive eviction notices but have been told by the apartment manager that they will be delivered eventually.

Herbert said the stress of not knowing when they will be evicted has prompted many Berkeley tenants to leave.

He said nearly half of the Berkeley’s 36 suites are now empty because tenants “got afraid, threatened, and now they’ve moved on.”

James also said an NDP government would create 2,400 affordable housing units in the first year and continue to build 1,200 each following year.

James said the money would come from a $250-million housing trust fund set up by the B.C. Liberal government.

“When you have a crisis in affordable housing, why leave money in a trust fund?”

She said government “has to get back into the business of building affordable housing.”

The B.C. Liberals froze social housing construction when they came into power in 2001 but in recent years have revived spending on non-market housing for people with addictions and mental illness.

James, meanwhile, criticized Premier Gordon Campbell for allowing John van Dongen to remain as solicitor-general after his driving licence was suspended for speeding violations.

“The folks I talk to say it’s common sense to have the top cop step down after he’s been found guilty of speeding.”

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