Vancouver city council approves part of COPE councillor Jean Swanson's motion to help tenants

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      COPE councillor Jean Swanson has followed through on her pre-election promise to improve the lives of tenants in Vancouver.

      But Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the rest of council have so far only approved certain aspects of her four-pronged motion to dramatically alter the balance of power between renters and landlords.

      Last night, council supported Swanson's call for the city to come up with "methods to keep track of all apartment buildings sold in Vancouver and immediately inform Vancouver tenants of their rights".

      In addition, council approved the section of Swanson's motion that the city should "explore measures to regulate and publicly register all tenant buyouts".

      When it came to renovictions, council voted to amend the tenant relocation and protection policy "to the extent of its authority under the Vancouver Charter" to allow tenants the option of moving back into their suites if they have to vacate the unit because of renovations.

      Moreover, the opportunity to return to their suite would occur "without their leases ending or rent increasing, in accordance with the Residential Tenancy Act and the Residential Tenancy Branch Policy Guideline 2 of May 2018", according to the motion.

      But council decided to ask staff to review and report back on other areas. These included Swanson's demand that the city call on the province to impose vacancy controls or asking the province to give the city power to do this.

      Vacancy controls would regulate rents between tenancies, preventing landlords from jacking up the price of a unit before a new tenant moves in.

      This aspect of Swanson's motion, more than any other, has come under scathing criticism from the development industry.

      Last month, a group representing developers claimed that if vacancy controls were adopted provincewide, it would lead to the delay or cancellation of 12,361 new rental units being built.

      Prior to last night's vote, the Vancouver Tenants Union was urging renters to bombard the mayor and council with emails in support of Swanson's motion.

      Council also voted to ask staff to report back on the following areas in early 2019:

      * language and a timeline for the city to call upon the province for an immediate amendment to the Vancouver Charter permitting the city to pass regulations and perform actions that affect tenancy issues. According to the motion, this is provided that "those regulations and actions do not otherwise conflict with the Residential Tenancy Act, its regulations, those policy guidelines that relate to it, or the Supreme Court of British Columbia's interpretation thereof"; 

      * an assessment of staff time and resources, and the impacts of implementing these measures;

      * and other measures the city can undertake to protect tenants from renovictions, demovictions, and aggressive buyouts.