Proposed regulations in Victoria could lead to eviction of low-income tenants

Agencies question council’s call for more diligence in granting housing assistance

Social agencies have some reservations about a request from Victoria council to add another criteria to the rental-subsidy checklist.

Already, non-profit housing providers struggle to find available housing that is both affordable and safe for their clients. Should Victoria get its way, the agencies may also have to ensure the housing is legal.

Don McTavish, manager of shelters for the Victoria Cool Aid Society, questions whether compliance with city bylaws and zoning should be his concern.

“Do I care?” he asked. “Whose needs is that serving?”

Last week, the City of Victoria wrote to the provincial government, which provides many types of income assistance, including some specifically allocated to rent. In its letter, the city makes the argument that as a funding body, the ministry has a responsibility to ensure public funds are being directed appropriately. That means housing subsidies shouldn’t be paid to landlords of illegal suites or rooming houses.

“(The province is) essentially cutting the cheques and walking away,” said Coun. Marianne Alto. “That’s not okay.”

The basis for some of the city’s bylaws aren’t arbitrary, she said. “It’s all about public safety and fairness.”

The issue came up at city council after bylaw officers discovered a number of illegal boarding houses in recent months. When attempts to bring the landlords into compliance failed, enforcement action ultimately displaced some tenants. In several cases, the tenants were receiving a rental subsidy.

In May, city council agreed to enforcement action against a property at 830-832 Queens St. The duplex was housing too many people and had electrical and other work done without a permit.

Six of the 11 tenants said to be living in the building were clients of Ministry of Social Development. The property owner is now working to return the property to its legal use. The ministry, however, has had to move its clients to other housing.

Coun. Pam Madoff said it’s a situation that could have been avoided had the Ministry done its due diligence in advance, rather than responding to a crisis after the fact.

She said the city wants to work in partnership with government.

Checking for municipal regulation compliance could involve little more than an email to the city, she added. “We could find a really simple and effective way of doing it.”

It might be simple, but social agencies still have concerns.

Agencies such as Cool Aid and Pacifica Housing could be affected by any new provincial requirements.

McTavish helps people in shelters to find housing and gives qualified tenants a rental supplement. The supplement is supplied by B.C. Housing and paid directly to the landlord.

“We go to the places with people … and we make sure that it’s up to fire and health codes,” said McTavish.

Contacting the city before signing an agreement with the landlord could alert bylaw enforcement, and ultimately shut down a safe, but non-compliant house, he said.

In Victoria, low-end housing is just too scarce to lose.

Phil Ward, director of support services for Pacifica Housing, also feels the work falls outside his jurisdiction and ability as a resource-strapped non-profit. If a housing unit is discovered to be illegal, Ward said it’s up to the client whether or not he or she wants to live there.

“The client’s between a rock and a hard  place,” he said. “If they can’t afford anything else, they may choose to live in a rooming house more crowded than the legal occupancy allows.”

Ward turns the onus back on the city. “To me, it’s a question of trying to look at these problems in a holistic way.”

He asked whether the laws fit the current needs, in terms of the housing crunch. Instead of focusing on enforcement, he added, perhaps the city could be better served by saying, “Hey, this has a lot of potential. Maybe we should look at rezoning it and operating it in a safe fashion, working with the owner of the building, working with the housing agencies.”

But Alto said the city has often tried to work with, rather than against, a noncompliant landlord.

“There are a number of instances where we have delayed taking an action or we’ve offered another alternative to try to make it a little bit easier to comply.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read