From pet clauses to rent forgiveness: Vancouver council to consider quartet of housing motions

[Vancouver Sun – October 5, 2020]

From no pets clauses to rent forgiveness, a look ahead at some of the housing questions councillors are set to take on.

Vancouver city councillors are set to debate a handful of housing motions aimed at expanding affordable options for residents and protecting and aiding renters as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.

Some of the four motions, slated for Tuesday’s chockablock council session, simply call on the province to resolve the issues, while others push staff to explore in-house solutions.

Motion: A closer look at tiny homes and shelters

What to know: There’s a serious shortage of affordable housing in Vancouver, and big homes, fancy townhouses, or even basic condominiums don’t fit every resident’s tastes, budget or needs.

What’s being proposed: Councillor Pete Fry’s motion calls on staff to look at changing the city’s bylaws to permit tiny homes on wheels, fixed foundation tiny houses, and temporary modular shelters. Such structures are already in use in other jurisdiction and Fry said they could be useful here too. Imagine, for example, one, two or even three tiny homes built in the backyard of a single-family residence.

“I think that we’ve been innovators in our code and we’ve led the way with stuff that the provincial building code has caught up with subsequently. I don’t see why we couldn’t do that now,” Fry said.

Motion: Protecting tenants – taking action against renovictions

What to know: Renovictions are leaving tenants in the lurch, unable to find new housing at similar prices, according to this motion by Mayor Kennedy Stewart. The practice tends to harm older adults, low income families and new immigrants in particular, he said.

What’s being proposed: Stewart wants the province to solve the problem. If it doesn’t, he wants city staff to come up with a fix that will require landlords to find alternate accommodation for their tenants during major repairs or renovations, and to honour their original agreement when their tenants return. Under the proposal, penalties should apply to owners who failed to do so.

Motion: Prohibition of “no pets”  clauses in rental contracts

What to know: B.C. landlords are permitted to restrict the size, kind and number of pets their tenants can own in the unit, and many opt to prohibit pets altogether. During the pandemic, this means many people who live alone are unable to ease their feelings of physical-distancing-related isolation by taking on a pet, according to this motion by councillors Jean Swanson and Fry.

What’s being proposed: The motion calls for the mayor to ask the province to prohibit “no pets” clauses, curbing landlords’ ability to bar pet ownership in their buildings or units. If that doesn’t work, it presses staff to wade into the matter however they can.

This motion and the following one were brought forward by the councillors on request from the city’s renters’ advisory committee. A 2018 Angus Reid poll found a majority of B.C. residents supported a landlord’s right to say no to pets.

Motion: Rent forgiveness program

What to know: Some Vancouver tenants have had trouble paying rent during the pandemic and many have opted to defer their rent payments. That outstanding rent will need to be repaid in accordance with agreements with their landlords.

What’s being proposed: This Swanson and Fry motion simply calls on the mayor to ask the province to create a rent forgiveness program to help out. It also asks councillors to acknowledge that rent banks that loan rent money to tenants in trouble are not the answer.



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