In recent years efforts across the City of Vancouver are being made to not only create new rental housing stock, but also protect its existing stock and the tenancy rights of its residents. With rental housing making up an estimated 50% + of Vancouver households, this is critical.
Responding to Vancouver’s current housing affordability crisis is the most significant challenge facing the City today – with Vancouver residents facing among the highest housing prices and rents and lowest median incomes among Canada’s large cities. Housing Vancouver (2018-2027) is the City’s vision for ensuring that Vancouver can be a home for people of all incomes and backgrounds, by prioritizing affordable housing and making housing markets work for all people who live and work in the City.
The need for new rental stock, particularly that which is social, supportive, and affordable is critical for several reasons, including for example:
- Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate continues to sit below 1 per cent resulting in renters having limited options when they are looking for rental housing and face substantial competition for a small number of available homes.
- The number of people paying more than 30% of income (the CMHC measure for housing unaffordability) on housing has grown astronomically as cost of living has far outpaced the incomes of many Vancouver residents: over 46,000 renters in Vancouver across the income spectrum are paying over 30 per cent of their income on rent. Out of these households, 15,000 are paying over half their income on rent – 58 per cent of these are headed by individuals aged 20 to 45, 15 per cent are families with children, and a further 14 per cent are seniors over 65.8.
- Much of the existing stock, particularly social and supportive housing such as the Single Resident Occupancy buildings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is old, unsafe, and virtually uninhabitable. This, combined with a growing homeless population makes the need for social and supportive housing that much more critical: The 2017 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count found 2,138 sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals in Vancouver – a 19 per cent increase over the 2014 Metro Vancouver count, with seniors, youth under the age of 25, and Indigenous residents disproportionately represented in comparison to other populations. An additional 4,000 people are living in private Single Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs), many of them in inadequate conditions.
Emerging from the strategy are over 120 actions designed to help address the issues described above, some of which are already underway:
- Empty Homes Tax
- Short-term rental regulations
- Temporary modular housing to address homelessness
- Social housing or Rental Tenure Program (SHORT)
- Making Room Housing Program
- Continue work with the Federal, Provincial, and Municipal SRO Working Group
- Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program
- Affordable housing delivery and financial strategy PDF file(740 KB) to Council
- Moving Rate of Change trigger from six to three to increase protection for rental housing
- Allocation of the initial Empty Homes Tax revenue PDF file(520 KB)
*for more on key strategy goals, objectives, and actions, visit: https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/housing-vancouver-strategy.aspx
While the strategy is not strictly dedicated to the provision of social, supportive, affordable and purpose-built rentals (i.e. condos, laneways, and townhouses are also included in the strategy), it does set out clear targets for number of units desired for each type, and the year-to-date progress on reaching those targets. The 2019 Progress Report Dashboard illustrates just this.
With all that said, there are those who question whether the City has set a high enough target for social, supportive, and affordable and purpose-built rentals. Further, there are those who are skeptical of whether the city will even be able to reach initial targets. Even in an ideal situation where new rental stock is created, it is questionable whether and to what extent existing renters (particularly those living in older rental stock) will continue to have their tenancy rights jeopardized as a seemingly endless wave of reno and demo-victions continues to crash over the city.
Working hard to help address the issues outlined above is the Vancouver Tenants Union (formed officially in 2017). The Vancouver Tenants Union is an independent (e.g. no government affiliation) rights, advocacy, and action group that is working to help protect the tenancy rights of Vancouver residents, as well as fight for the preservation of affordable housing and resist the commodification of housing and a speculative real-estate market.
With 2,000 members and growing, the Vancouver Tenants Union demands:
- Real Rent Control (see below to sign the Real Rent Control Petition)
- Eviction Protections
- More Affordable Housing
- Better Incomes for All
To find resources on tenancy rights, and to learn more or get involved with the VTU, visit: https://www.vancouvertenantsunion.ca/about
Make Your Voice Heard
Demanding the right to, and protection of, safe, secure, and affordable housing for all is not a new ask. It has been a recurring demand for over a century and will continue to be demanded until it is received. It is for these reasons we as residents must begin, or continue to do our part in making our wants, needs, and concerns heard, be it through advocacy, activism, political participation or otherwise.
Not sure of where to start or what to do? Below is a list of opportunities to perhaps get you started:
Sign the Real Rent Control Petition:
Vacancy Control is a form of rent control that means landlords can’t raise the rent when tenants move out or are evicted. Sign the petition to call on the BC government to reform the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) to include Vacancy Control.
Attend the City of Vancouver’s Open House and Complete the Survey on the Future of Rental Housing in Vancouver:
Open House (Today!)
Date: September 26 2019
Time: 4 to 7pm
Location: Polish Community Centre, 4015 Fraser Street Vancouver
Event type: Open house / info session
Survey (Closes September 30 2019!)