Prince Rupert takes steps to protect renters, as Vancouver grapples with similar issues of its own

·3 min read
A Prince Rupert bylaw outlines maintenance standards for rental units and rules around evictions. (Shutterstock / Slava Dumchev - image credit)
A Prince Rupert bylaw outlines maintenance standards for rental units and rules around evictions. (Shutterstock / Slava Dumchev - image credit)

Prince Rupert, B.C., is taking steps to protect renters from poor living conditions and renovictions.

Last week, the city passed a bylaw outlining basic maintenance standards for rental units and rules around evictions. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $50,000.

While provincial legislation around evictions and property management maintenance is already in place, city manager Rob Buchan said Prince Rupert felt the need to take things a step further.

Multi-family projects will need to be licensed, Buchan said, while rentals involving duplexes and single-family dwellings are exempt.

All rentals will be subject to minimum maintenance standards covering around 24 categories.

Landlords of rental complexes who evict for renovations have to make arrangements for the tenant to have a new place to live, be it permanently or temporarily and allow them to return under the same terms and conditions, once renovations are complete.

"So if they have multiple units and they want to renovate one within a building, they could renovate that and then move a tenant back into that [unit]," Buchan said.

The bylaw comes after a fire at a Prince Rupert apartment building with a history of unsafe conditions. The building's landlord was slapped with two fines in the 13 months before the blaze.

Prince Rupert's vacancy rate sits at around one per cent. Buchan said incentives are in place to encourage residential developments in and around downtown, including waiving fees for building permits as well as rezoning or development application fees.

A city bylaw allows for developers of residential and commercial properties to get a break on property taxes for up to 10 years.

"The challenge is getting developers to come up into Rupert," he said. "They haven't been there really for decades since the 1990s. So getting this on the radar within the development industry .... is one of our main tasks."

Plan to protect Vancouver renters questioned

With construction underway on a subway line, the City of Vancouver will soon review a final draft of a plan that looks to add space for as many as 50,000 new residents along the Broadway corridor.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart is pledging amendments to the Broadway Plan that would protect renters if older buildings are demolished and redeveloped.

"The relocation of tenants would be a rare event, but these folks would be fully compensated either with a cash payout or with a right to return to a new building at or below their current rent," Stewart said.

Stewart says displaced tenants could return to redeveloped buildings and pay up to 20 per cent below market rates.

Andy Yan, an urban planner and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, has questions about the plan, noting that units in newer buildings tend to be smaller than those in older buildings.

"Are these going to be similar size units? Are they going to be tiny units?" he said. "That isn't necessarily coming out in the details of this plan, but yet it's going to have a dramatic effect upon these rental neighbourhoods."

The draft plan is scheduled to go to city council later this month.

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