New Westminster has become the first city in B.C. to amend its zoning bylaw to protect renters from “renovictions.”
Council approved the changes unanimously Monday, following a public hearing.
The amendment aims to address the rental crisis in Metro Vancouver by adding site-specific rental tenure restrictions to certain properties, and blocking developers from evicting tenants to replace the building for other uses, also known as “renovictions.”
Mayor Jonathan Cote called the city’s state of renting “a renoviction crisis.”
“The number of cases we have seen that have involved, what I would say, are more superficial renovations to the building but have led to renovictions is increasing,” Cote said.
“That puts us in a desperate position to say, ‘What policy can we look at to address this?’ And we have been very limited here.”
Coun. Jaime McEvoy said he understands the move is not popular for some property owners, but doing nothing as a response to the housing crunch is not an option.
“There are many good landlords in New Westminster, I have rented from some of them,” McEvoy said. “Those landlords are going to sell one day, so what happens when they sell?
Renovictions have plagued many cities in B.C., especially where rental vacancy rates are less than two per cent. It became a central issue during last fall’s municipal election. In December, the provincial housing task force called for tenants to be allowed to stay as building owners renovate and evictions be reserved for rare instances of serious, major and long-term work.
Coun. Patrick Johnstone said he wants to help renters who finding themselves living in uncertainty.
“I know the people who own these buildings want certainty,” Johnstone said. “To me, right now, the crisis for certainty is people who don’t have a place to live, or are precariously living in a place where, if they are evicted, they will not be able to find another affordable place to live in this community.”