I attended the regular GWAC meeting last night, the main subject of discussion at which was the potential improvement of tenants’ rights in the over-heated property market that is Vancouver today.
Given that about 60% of Grandview’s residents are renters, I have to begin by expressing my disappointment at the low turnout for this meeting; at no time were there more than a dozen non-GWAC-directors in the room. Many recent GWAC meetings have had better attendance than this, on subjects of less immediate concern to so many. There was also a notable lack of presence by organisations — the BIA, for example, the Kettle, church groups, to name just a few — who claim a community interest but rarely partake except when their own direct interests are concerned.
The main business of the evening was a joint presentation by Marilyn and Emma of the Grandview Renters’ Action Group and Neil from the Vancouver Tenants’ Union. These are both recently formed groups and they want to introduce themselves to the community. After a brief recitation of the well-known problems facing renters in Vancouver today, the Grandview Group listed its priorities (my summaries):
- Affordable rents;
- Steady supply of both new and renovated units;
- An end to renovictions and other dodgy “evictions”;
- Provision of safe housing;
- Legislation to make housing a human right.
The local group is in the process of reaching out to renters and other groups in the neighbourhood, and hopes to swiftly become the go-to place for tenant’s information and advocacy in Grandview. They have monthly meetings and they urge renters to become members through the website.
The Vancouver group is doing much the same thing, although acting more as an umbrella group for local groups. They are also working on eliminating loopholes in the RTA to bring more stability and certainty to renters. They are keen to get tenants’ reps into each multi-family building, and they look to implement a Montreal-style linkage of rent to a unit rather than to a tenancy (thus ending the practice of massive rent increases between tenancies and the subsequent pressure this puts on some landlords to evict existing “rent-controlled” tenants).
The Vancouver Tenants’ Union plans to have a convention this fall to elect a Board, establish principles, etc.
After the presentations, there was a free-wheeling Q&A/discussion that covered a lot of ground including RTA horror stories, AirBnb issues, empty suites, and possible ways of reducing rents. It was generally agreed, I believe, that in Vancouver’s current market, renters are becoming second class citizens, marginalised by insecurity. It was also understood that the Vancouver permitting process has become so unwieldy and costly as to discourage many homeowners from establishing legal suites. It also seemed to be agreed that one part of a solution is for all three levels of government to get back into the business of building genuinely affordable housing units, owned by the municipality and thus protected from market pressures.
A very useful discussion, and a well-managed meeting. We can only hope that ever-larger numbers of Grandview residents will find enough interest in these topics to come to meetings and have their say. GWAC offers that opportunity to everyone and is a vital resource for the neighbourhood.