Vancouver city council approves creation of a renter's office to support tenants

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      Vancouver will become the first city in the Lower Mainland to have division of its bureaucracy dedicated to the well-being of tenants.

      Yesterday, politicians in the chamber passed Green councillor Pete Fry's motion to direct staff to report back "on steps to create a renter's office at the City of Vancouver that will target, track, resource, and support Vancouver renters and renter issues".

      The preamble to the motion pointed out that 53 percent of Vancouver households rent their homes.

      The overall vacancy rate is below one percent, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

      In addition, the city's tenant relocation and protection guidelines don't apply to most investor-held condos and secondary suites.

      Staff have also been directed to report on how the renter's office can provide a point of contact on tenancy issues on such issues as standards of maintenance, tenant relocation and protections, and renovictions.

      This office will also deal with renter-advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Tenants Union and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, as well as with the provincial residential tenancy branch.

      Fry also wants staff to report on how this office can work with departments overseeing permits, licensing, and building inspections to shield tenants from "illegal renovictions and monitor rate of change to affordable rental housing stock".

      In addition, staff have been directed on how the office can support Vancouver renters by advising and working with city agencies and committees "to advocate for the needs of market and nonmarket renters including public, nonprofit, and co-op housing".

      Prior to the election, Fry told the Vancouver Tenants Union in response to a candidate survey that if he's elected, he would ask the provincial government for a four-year rent freeze.

      The Green councillor noted that this would be on the condition that the province provides "some sort of intervention to protect and maintain affordable rental stock and a means to insulate landlords from legitimate maintenance and inflation costs”.