Good news for Vancouver renters

apartment-159414_640There’s been a lot in the news lately about issues that impact renters, and I’m happy to say most of it is good news.

First up is the announcement of a new resource at city hall — the creation of a Renters Office. This office, with its newly dedicated staff person and phone line, will provide a badly needed service to renters in Vancouver on issues ranging from renovictions to rental rates in new developments. It can be reached at 604-673-8291 or renteroffice@vancouver.ca. Since the majority of Vancouver’s citizens are renters, this addition is a welcome one. Hats off to Pete Fry for his motion, and everyone else who helped made it happen!

Congratulations are also in order to Green Councillor Adriane Carr for her motion asking staff to review all housing programs Vancouver city hall now has, with a view to rewriting them so that affordable housing actually aligns with the incomes of the people who need it. Currently, far too often the rental housing produced as a result of existing city hall policies is far out of reach of the ordinary renter. According to Councillor Carr, more than half of Vancouver households couldn’t afford the rent in city-subsidized rental projects.

Given the fact that developers frequently avoid paying significant amounts of money in development cost levies in return for delivering so-called “affordable” rental housing, this review is very welcome news.

A perfect example of the type of development Councillor Carr’s motion will address is the new, subsidized development planned for East 1 Ave. and Clark Drive. A one-bedroom rental unit in this proposed development would require an income of $48,000 a year or just over $23 an hour, hardly affordable in my books and definitely not geared to low-income renters. A person earning $15/hour has an annual income of just over $31,000 net — making those suites impossible to afford. (And that’s not close to minimum wage, which is currently $12.65, meaning $26,000 annually. Minimum wage won’t hit $15 until 2021!).

All in all, last week was a good one for Vancouver’s renters. Let’s hope that this new city council will continue to address the needs of renters.

Posted in affordable housing, City Hall, developers, gentrification, Green Party, homelessness, Planning, renoviction, social justice, Vancouver | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New provincial budget is a breath of fresh air

money-1673582_640All in all, the new provincial budget is good news. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air compared to what we’ve become accustomed to during the many years of the provincial Liberals. Here are some of the highlights for me.

First off is child care. The provincial NDP, with the Greens, have replaced the old early childhood tax benefit of $660 per child per year for children under the age of six with a new B.C. Child Opportunity Benefit that now runs until the child is 18. This benefit starts in October 2020 and will provide families with one child up to $1,600 a year, with two children up to $2,600 a year, and with three children up to $3,400 a year. These are major improvements that will go a long way toward lifting families in need out of poverty.

Next up is great news for students — the complete elimination of all interest on B.C. student loans. This will help make post-secondary education more affordable for many. I sure wish it had been in effect when I racked up my student debt many years ago!

A final favourite of mine from this provincial budget is the climate action plan rebate program. Overall, the government has allocated nearly $1 billion in its CleanBC plan for action on climate change, but there are three parts to this program that are aimed at helping individuals.

The first offers families up to $14,000 for improving the energy efficiency of their homes by doing things like buying super-efficient furnaces that cut down on carbon emissions and their energy bills. The second part is a $107-million program offering incentives toward the purchase of a battery/electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. If you buy one of these, you’re now eligible for a rebate of up to $6000, which is quite significant. Finally, this budget offers an increased climate action tax credit of up to $400 per year, for each of the next three years for eligible families — a 14 percent increase to help offset the cost of the carbon tax.

Hats off to the NDP/Green alliance for a progressive budget that reduces poverty and improves the environment!

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Let’s follow New Westminster’s lead on renovictions

clip-art-neighborhoodCongratulations to New Westminster city council on their recent unanimous approval of a new bylaw to protect renters from renovictions. Landlords there will now face the prospect of fines of up to $1,000 a day or losing their business licence and, with it, the right to be a landlord if they increase rents after renovations are completed, or otherwise break the law, such as evicting tenants without giving them fair notice or first right of refusal to move back in.

This will protect tenants from landlords who use renovations as an excuse or pretext with which to get around the Residential Tenancy Act, which limits rent increases to the rate of inflation plus 2.5% of the rent once a year.

Currently, many tenants see their rent skyrocketing by up to 100% due to a renoviction!

Hopefully, the New Westminster initiative will give Vancouver’s COPE city councillor, Jean Swanson, the momentum to put forward a similar bylaw. She is quickly becoming known as the best friend of tenants on Vancouver city council. The icing on the cake would be for Vancouver city council to approve such a motion, and other jurisdictions in Metro Vancouver to quickly follow suit.

Posted in affordable housing, COPE, developers, economy, gentrification, homelessness, Metro Vancouver, press release, renoviction, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment