April 19, 2017
Response to Vision Video: http://www.votevision.ca/renters
With less than a month remaining before the upcoming provincial election, Vancouver’s Mayor Robertson has climbed aboard his party’s soapbox in a recent Vision-sponsored video. He’s seen exhorting the provincial government to tighten certain elements of the Residential Tenancy Act, while also admonishing the few errant landlords who allegedly mistreat tenants.
Against this backdrop, the Mayor readily concedes that Vancouver’s troublesome vacancy rate, now standing at 0.8% according to CMHC’s latest report, is dangerously low and has been so for the entire decade. However, the Mayor conveniently overlooks his own administration’s dismal performance over the last 5 years, which has seen only a few thousand new rental units added to the City’s inventory through the STIR and Rental 100 programs.
Additionally, Vision has steadfastly maintained the moratorium on the demolition of rental stock – now into its 10th year – with no end in sight. This moratorium was enacted in 2008 for what was originally planned to be a mere 2.5-year period. Ostensibly, the goal was to buy the time needed for our civic authorities to create new housing solutions while protecting existing rental stock, which happened to be low-density, inefficient, costly to maintain and averaging 60 years in age.
By virtue of the moratorium’s implementation, Vancouver landlords have been arbitrarily stripped of their assumed property rights. Owners are prohibited from selling their rental buildings as development sites, which frequently represents the property’s highest and best use. Consequently, the burden rests on apartment owners to sustain their building’s operations. Meanwhile, owners of commercial, office, industrial, hotels and even strata properties do not face any of the same redevelopment restrictions.
By and large, a great majority of Vancouver landlords have a good track record when it comes to maintaining the condition of their buildings. Yet the Mayor, presumably to deflect blame from his administration, is insisting that landlords who evict tenants for the purpose of carrying out badly needed renovations must also provide displaced tenants with the right of first refusal. These same tenants would have the option to be readmitted to the renovated buildings at the original rents: a toxic recipe for the very survival of the industry that provides them and others with a place to live. Without the necessary financial incentives, namely increased rents to pay for the renovations, market forces will prevail, consequently leading to landlords’ determined refusal to carry out the required upgrades. Predictably, this will lead to a serious decline in the condition of rental buildings throughout the city.
Surely our Mayor can display some leadership towards this chronic problem and generate more constructive approaches to the creation of much-needed rental housing without scapegoating those who work to provide it.
David Goodman, Principal
The Goodman Report