Vancouver Council’s 2009 Plan Includes Requesting Right of First Refusal

Many Seafield Apartments residents went to council to speak in support of Councillor Tim Stevenson’s motion to request needed amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act from the province. Some of the suggestions made by Seafielders, most notably those made by our own Brian Broster, were implemented as amendments to the motion.

By Jackie Wong

The West Ender

In its final meeting of the year, which ran a lengthy five hours, Vancouver City Council passed three motions that will have City staff working hard in 2009. The motions include drafting a report on how to better enforce the Standards of Maintenance bylaw, which concerns landlords’ obligations for building upkeep; an implementation plan for the Burrard Bridge; and submitting a request to the province to amend the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) as part of efforts to boost tenants’ rights.

Lone NPA councillor Suzanne Anton was the only councillor who opposed the motions about the Burrard Bridge and Residential Tenancy Act, instead favouring the original NPA plans to build a sidewalk barrier on the Burrard Bridge and to carry out a more thorough examination of what the City can do to produce more rental stock. She supported the motion about the Standards of Maintenance bylaw.

Anton expressed particular concern for her colleagues’ interest in amending the RTA. “We need to focus on what we can do,” she said at the meeting. “Sending [the motion] away and asking the province to do something [only] looks like we’re doing something, but the important thing we can do is what we’re [already] doing…, which is to promote the building of new units.”

Anton said she believes the City needs to allow for more high-capacity rental buildings in Vancouver, in order to create more units for prospective tenants, who currently face a vacancy rate of 0.3 per cent. “We need to have enough housing in the city for people to live in,” she said. “We’ve got a moratorium on tearing the old buildings down and building new buildings. I’m hoping we can lift that moratorium.”

Meeting attendee Paul Sander, who identified himself as a landlord on the council speakers’ list, also opposed the RTA motion. When Councillor Tim Stevenson asked him if he was affiliated with controversial rental-property management firm Hollyburn Properties, Sander replied, “I could be.” A man of the same name is the CEO of Hollyburn Properties.

“There is already a system of checks and balances in place,” Sander said of the motion. He also criticized council’s use of the word “loophole” in the motion. “The word ‘loophole’ is used incorrectly in this motion. It is not accurate,” he said. “The word ‘loophole’ was derived from tenant-activist groups and the media. It refers to law.”

As for Sander’s argument that the word “loophole” was used incorrectly in the motion, another meeting attendee, Brian Broster, begged to differ. He is a resident of the Seafield, a 77-year-old apartment building whose tenants are facing imminent eviction by its new owners in order to clear the way for renovations. “The loophole is admitted by not only the Supreme Court, but also the government in power,” he said, referring to Supreme Court cases that stated there is a loophole in the RTA, as well as a meeting Broster and other Seafield residents had with BC Liberal housing minister Rich Coleman. “Only the bad landlords that want to essentially gouge rents and reno-vict the tenants are the ones who are complaining. Good landlords will continue to maintain their buildings [within] the rent increases allowed every year.”

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