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Victoria delays action on renoviction protection bylaw

Council waiting to see impact of provincial legislation changes
B.C.’s updated legislation does not limit a landlord’s ability to alter rental rates after work on a unit is complete. Victoria council is waiting to see how changes to the Rental Tenancy Act could impact local bylaws. (Black Press Media file photo)

The City of Victoria decided to take a wait-and-see approach to adding more protections for tenants at its Oct. 14 meeting.

On Sept. 16, council directed staff to report back with a draft bylaw to help displaced tenants during renovations and ensure affordability once renovated units become ready for occupants. However, on Oct. 4, Mayor Lisa Helps brought the topic back under the spotlight by asking that parts of the motion be reconsidered.

In her motion to reconsider, Helps said changes to the province’s Rental Tenancy Act (RTA) that came into effect on July 1 have created “a landscape that is unclear” for staff and pointed to a similar bylaw in New Westminster, which she said was made entirely inoperable by the RTA.

READ MORE: Victoria to target gaps that still exist after B.C. strengthens renoviction protection

On Thursday, Helps proposed suspending any development of a rental business licensing bylaw and that staff report back to council in one year on the effectiveness of the provincial legislation. She also proposed council advocate to the province to give local governments the authority to require tenant protections.

While B.C.’s updated legislation is intended to prevent nearly all renovictions, it does not limit a landlord’s ability to alter rental rates after work on a unit is complete. Coun. Jeremy Loveday said this makes immediate action from the city necessary. “If there is a gap, it means someone is losing their home,” he said.

READ MORE: Critics question effectiveness of new Victoria rental maintenance bylaw

In the end, council decided to suspend any development of the bylaw with staff reporting back in three months, instead of the year. Couns. Loveday and Sharmarke Dubow voted against the suspension, while Coun. Ben Isitt recused himself from the debate due to a conflict of interest.

Shortly after the motion passed on Thursday, Patrick Corbeil of the Victoria Tenant Action Group told Black Press Media his organization was disappointed by the delay.

“This wait-and-see approach is not something that we think is wise,” he said. “(Housing) is the biggest issue – and has been for a number of years – that has been identified by residents.”

Council will hear from staff on the provincial legislation in January 2022.

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