Renters need stronger protections in New Westminster, says Campbell

I recently had the chance to chat with Jonina Campbell who is a New Westminster School Trustee and former Green Party candidate in the last election. We got to talking about affordable housing and she mentioned she had submitted a letter to the editor at the Record newspaper.

I asked if she could share a copy with me in order that I could publish on my blog. She agreed…and what follows is an unedited version regarding her take on what New Westminster Council should be doing in order to better protect the rental stock in the city. Let me know if you agree with her position by adding a comment below!

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New Westminster needs to impose a moratorium on permits to prevent demovictions I was troubled to read in The Record (June 23, 2017), that tenants at 322 Seventh Street have been given two-month eviction notices to allow for “major renovations.” The renoviction nightmare looks to have found its way to New Westminster. It is not a stretch to think that other buildings will be facing, if they are not already, similar fates in the very near future.

Any changes to the residential tenancy act will likely come too late for the tenants at 322 Seventh Street.

I commend the New Westminster City Council and Mayor for their leadership in creating the Rental Policy that has gone a long way to preserving purpose built rental stock in New Westminster. The time has come, however, to address the limitations of that policy and exhaust every possibility to delay issuing permits that would allow the renovictions to take place.

“While I appreciate the limitations that municipal governments have in this situation, these are extraordinary times…Jonina Campbell

A year ago council imposed a one-year moratorium on demolition of houses of heritage value in Queens Park to stop teardowns before council and Mayor had time to consider the heritage conservation area review. Councillor Chuck Puchmayr is quoted in The Record (June 22/16) supporting this view: “…If they wanted to preserve that historic neighbourhood, this was the only way of doing it. Otherwise it was going to be demolition after demolition.

The same is true today, unless permits are delayed, it will be renoviction after renoviction.

To prevent renovictions, council needs to impose a short-term, temporary moratorium on issuing permits for renovations or demolitions of purpose-built rental stock. The Victoria City council is considering a six-month moratorium on demolitions, and unanimously approved a resolution to decline applications to demolish existing residential rental buildings that contain more than four units when the rental vacancy rate is below four percent. While they recognize that this will be a challenge, council says it will “… to the greatest extent possible within the city’s legal authority” decline applications (Times Colonist, June22/17).

While I appreciate the limitations that municipal governments have in this situation, these are extraordinary times and the provincial uncertainly only adds to a brewing perfect storm of aging infrastructure and owners keen to apply for permits to renovate or demolish before any changes to the tenancy act are implemented.

To prevent any further renovictions or demovictions, I urge council and Mayor to impose a short-term, temporary moratorium on issuing permits, like was done for houses of heritage value when considering the HCA, for renovations or demolitions of purpose-built rental stock.

2 Replies to “Renters need stronger protections in New Westminster, says Campbell”

  1. LOBBY to have the “Amenity” contributions from all these developers (built into sale price and profits anyways) go into having a minimum % for City owned Low/Fixed Income lower cost RENTAL units integrated in these new towers instead or Modern Art, empty terraces/plazas with some plants here and there and other useless allocation of these funds!

  2. While banning “renovictions” might help the tenants of today, ultimately it would be a self-defeating policy. Many of the rental properties in New West, especially below 6th Ave, are badly in need of upgrade. A few are complete 1950s dumps that no one would ever want to raise a family in. (Note that 322 7th St is not one of those.) The dumps should go — they should be replaced. But if landlords are prohibited from renovating/demolishing a dump and recovering the cost in the rents, they won’t renovate — full stop. Then the rental crisis will only get worse. It is good that some new purpose-built rental housing is now being built again. But City Council should focus on encouraging more of that — not preventing the upgrade of a lot of trashy apartments that exist in some of our neighbourhoods — you know which ones I’m referring to.

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