B.C. needs more checks on housing assistance: Victoria council

Province, city both appear to play role in displacement of subsidized tenants

Landlords are benefiting from government money – directly or indirectly – by illegally housing tenants who receive rental or income assistance.

It’s a situation that leaves the City of Victoria in the position of having to boot vulnerable tenants out of their homes.

On Thursday, Victoria city council voted unanimously to write a letter to the provincial government, requesting that it take more precautions to ensure recipients of rental assistance or other income assistance are living housing that is properly zoned and permitted.

“A property will come forward, where the city has become aware, via a complaint, that there may be illegal occupancy or work done without a permit,” Coun. Pam Madoff said. “What happens is we’re the ones that are put into an enforcement role. (That) can result in people being displaced from their accommodation, when many of them are actually having their rent paid or subsidized through the provincial government.”

It’s happened several times in the last few months, she said.

For instance, this spring bylaw officers discovered an illegal rooming house at 830-832 Queens Ave., containing 10 to 12 unrelated adults. The landlord was living in an illegal suite located inside the duplex.

“We feel that there should be some due diligence on the part of the provincial government to make sure that when they are putting folks in accommodation, that the accommodation is legal for the use,” Madoff said. “It’s just been really difficult for us on the planning committee, because we feel like we’re the ones displacing folks.”

A spokesperson with the Ministry of Social Development, which is responsible for housing, said responsibility lies with the landlord and the municipality.

“Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords must comply with health, safety and housing standards required by law,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to the ***News. “This includes local government bylaws.

“If the city is having zoning issues with privately owned buildings, then that is a municipal responsibility; the province has no jurisdiction. Local government has the responsibility and the authority to enforce their own bylaws.”

rholmen@vicnews.com