Vancouver Council Eases Rules for Olympic Rentals, Calls on Province to Prohibit Evictions

By Matthew Burrows
Georgia Straight

Vancouver city council today (April 9) relaxed a bylaw to make it easier for landlords and homeowners to rent dwellings during the 2010 Olympics.

In the city services and budgets committee meeting, councillors also called on the province government to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prohibit evictions between June 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010, other than by tenant default.

Council is also requesting the province open “fully staffed” Residential Tenancy Branch in Vancouver for 12 months—including before and after the Games.

Ministry staff didn’t make B.C. housing and social development minister Rich Coleman available for an interview.

“When’s he gonna give? I don’t know,” Coun. Geoff Meggs told the Straight of Coleman. “He’s a very strong-willed man.”

Meggs amended several staff recommendations. One of his amendments will see Olympic landlords charged $106, the same as the city’s business-licence fee, rather than the recommended $150.

Am Johal, from Impact on Communities Coalition, lambasted the council after the meeting—as well as before—and also hit out at the provincial government for not adding sufficient “teeth” to existing legislation to prevent displacement of low-income renters as 2010 nears.

Meggs reiterated that a lot of the responsibility lies with the province.

“Council has passed a number of motions calling on the provincial government to act under the Residential Tenancy Act, which is about all we can do,” Meggs said. “We’ve had private discussions with staff to see if there’s other legal tools we could use in the case of problems like the Seafield Apartments and the ‘renovictions’, and we’ve not been able to find any. So we don’t want to create any illusions on that score, but we are pressing as hard as we can and doing what we can within our own mandate to protect people. We just don’t have enough tools.”

Are the Olympics bad news for Vancouver?

“No,” Meggs said. “I think the overall majority of Vancouverites actually believe that the Games will be good for the city in the long term. There are going to be lots of frustrations in the long haul. Traffic jams and so on.”

Added Meggs: “In my view, there’s a general crisis in rentals, and the Olympics, we hope, will not compound it. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that the Olympics don’t make it worse. The problem was there before the Olympics came along, and we’re acting to try to increase the supply of rental housing. We’ve asked the province to act. We’ve done everything we can ourselves.”

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