COPE’s Jean Swanson is off to a great start

Vancouver’s new city council was sworn into office Monday, November 5 at an invitation-only ceremony held before their first council meeting. But COPE’s lone city councillor, Jean Swanson, had already been hard at work. She served notice of motion a number of days prior to the first meeting on her proposed motion regarding renovictions.

Let me take a moment now to talk about renovictions and what Councillor Swanson hopes to achieve with her motion.

Under BC’s Residential Tenancy Act, landlords may only raise the rent in a residential suite once a year. The amount of the rent increase is capped at the Consumer Price Index plus 2%. However, these restrictions do not apply each time there’s a turnover in the residential suite. If the tenant moves out, the landlord may raise the rent as much as she or he wishes, even if it has not been a year since the last increase. The raise is not capped at all.

For years, landlords have used this exception to get around the Residential Tenancy Act‘s restrictions on the amount of rent increases. The landlord serves the tenant with an eviction notice on the basis that they wish to renovate the suite, hence the term “renoviction”.

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New Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson got to work advocating for renters even before she was sworn into office Nov. 5th. Her first motion would improve tenant protections and ask the province for vacancy control to prevent ‘renovictions.’ [Photo from http://cope.bc.ca]

Councillor’s Swanson’s motion would close this loophole. According to a recent article in the Vancouver Star, she explains things this way:

“(Apartment buildings are) being bought at high prices with the landlord assuming they’ll be able to rent them out at a higher rent than tenants are currently paying,” she said. “Anything the government does to build social housing is nullified by all of these affordable apartments becoming luxury apartments.”

It will be interesting to see how the rest of council votes on Councillor Swanson’s progressive motion. One would anticipate that the five NPA councillors will vote against it. If so, Councillor Swanson will be dependent on the rest of council — three Greens, one OneCity councillor, and the mayor — if her motion is to succeed.

Councillor Jean Swanson is off to a great start. Fingers crossed her motion carries. If it does, renters will have won a big victory.

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