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EDITORIAL: Enforcement the key to affecting change

Tenants will play a key role in making newly enacted renter protections work as intended

It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

We’ve heard that our whole lives, and while some may find the old adage slightly out of style, this month it rings true for B.C. renters, including some right here in Victoria.

Earlier this month the province announced new protections for renters in an effort to combat renovictions, mandating tenants be provided with more time to find alternate housing or to file disputes, as well as receive better compensation from landlords who force tenants out and then change their plans for renovations.

With the housing crisis in full swing from Vancouver to Vanderhoof, the new guidelines were like a life ring tossed into a sea of people bordering on homelessness as landlords feasted, eager to cash in on higher rents.

The key to making sure these rules do indeed affect change, however, will be in making sure they are enforced, and the only way to do that is if people who feel they’ve been wronged speak up.

In Victoria, residents of a social housing complex that aimed to give former tent city residents a roof over their heads did exactly that. Renters at 844 Johnson St. took the building’s manager, the Portland Hotel Society, to court – and won – having grown tired of having restrictions imposed upon them they say market renters don’t suffer.

Having guests over, or allowing people to enter the building without identification are rights a typical renter thinks very little about, but because these tenants live in subsidized housing, they argued, they were being treated as second-class citizens.

As generations begin to get priced out of home ownership, the number of people in this province who rent is steadily rising. It has nothing to do with one’s education level or income, race or even gender. It is quickly just becoming the norm.

Thankfully, the powers that be are recognizing that no matter who you are, rights and protections are non-negotiable and everyone deserves the right to a safe and stable home.

Maybe soon we won’t hear “money talks” any more, either.

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