The Tyee's series on renting in Vancouver
The Tyee has commissioned a series by Jackie Wong on renting in the Metro Vancouver area.
Part 1: No Room to Rent in the Livable City:
[L]andlords, especially those straining to maintain aging but affordably priced properties, sometimes deem it necessary to evict long-term tenants in order to carry out upgrades. Others evict tenant to occupy units for personal use. Appealing against such ‘no-fault’ evictions can lead to drawn-out disputes before the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch, notorious among renters for its secrecy and procedural inconsistency.
As [residents of an apartment complex evicted so the landlord renovate the building] saw it, once in possession of a vacant renovated suite the landlords could increase the rent, collecting more from new tenants than they would from its former occupants. Residents regarded the derelict conditions in the hallways as intimidation tactics, meant to motivate tenants to move out on their own when eviction notices weren’t enough.
It’s hard to argue with people who’d like to be able to stay in homes where they’ve become settled. But it’s equally hard to argue that private investors should pay to renovate Vancouver’s many apartment buildings in need of updating without their getting anything in return.
[T]he isolated working conditions and lack of communication with stakeholders created a culture of secrecy unusual for a public tribunal, this former DRO [dispute resolution officer] says. She first dealt with the Residential Tenancy Branch as a law student, representing tenants. The DROs she encountered were lawyers. It was only when she later went to work for the RTB herself that she discovered a law degree was not a job requirement. Some of her colleagues had held other quasi-judicial roles, such as working as inspectors for the Liquor Distribution Branch.
The City of Vancouver’s Rental Housing Synthesis Report – a blueprint for changes it would like to see – concedes that reverting to pre-1973 tax policy won’t help in today’s environment. Instead, it calls for partnerships with senior governments in targeted programs with measurable outcomes.
Some of the ideas it suggests:
- Provide green incentives to support rental building retrofits.
- Provide HST exemption for goods and services required to operate and update rental housing.
- Increase depreciation rates for rental housing assets.
- Help smaller landlords qualify for small business taxation rates.
- Institute a rollover provision so landlords can defer payment of their capital gains tax when they re-invest in rental housing assets.
- Modify eligibility criteria for landlords to make use of the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP). Many Vancouver buildings