Vancouver councillors waver over vacancy control despite assurance of absence of legal risk

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      They were told that they had full authority to do it.

      They were also advised that that there is no legal risk going that path.

      But in the end, Vancouver councillors chose not to.

      Council had a chance this week to impose vacancy control on a rental project in Kitsilano.

      That would have meant that rents will be tied to the units, and not to the renter. In other words, rents will be capped at the yearly increases allowed by the province. Moreover, the landlord cannot indiscriminately jack up rent when a tenant leaves and a new one comes in.

      Jean Swanson, the councillor who proposed the move, argued that vacancy control would have provided a measure of affordability to the project.

      After all, the development at 1906-1918 West 4th Avenue is going to charge rents that are higher than the average market rents for newer buildings in the city’s West Side.

      In a meeting Tuesday (February 26), councillor Adriane Carr seconded Swanson’s motion, and when it was called, the measure passed with a 6-5 vote.

      In addition to Swanson and Carr, the measure was supported by councillors Christine Boyle, Colleen Hardwick, Pete Fry, and Michael Wiebe.

      Opposing the measure were Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and councillors Rebecca Bligh, Melissa De Genova, Lisa Dominato, and Sarah Kirby-Yung.

      Following the vote, councillor De Genova asked if the city was making itself vulnerable to legal action.

      City manager Sadhu Johnston told council that it had “full authority” to do what it voted on.

      “It can be done,” Johnston said.

      However, Johnston also said that the measure may prevent the development from going forward.

      Councillor Carr called for a reconsideration of the vote.

      A new round of votes was called, and Mayor Stewart, and councillors Bligh, De Genova, Dominato, and Kirby-Yung maintained their opposition to vacancy control.

      Councillors Carr, Boyle, and Wiebe abandoned their support for vacancy control at the West 4th Avenue development.

      Councillors Fry, Hardwick, and Swanson stuck with their guns.

      With the new 8-3 vote, Swanson’s motion died.

      The Vancouver Tenants Union posted on social media that it was “disappointed” with how things turned out.