CCAP calls for help, alarmed that proposed SRO bylaw (July 22 in Council) could worsen Vancouver’s homelessness crisis

CCAP photo demolition-victory-2

Photo courtesy of Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP)

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is making a broad call for support to speak out to Vancouver’s Mayor and City Council against the “inadequate SRA Bylaw” reform that will be discussed and voted on at Vancouver City Council Wednesday morning, July 22, 2015. This is the first item on the agenda. (Click the link for live video feed.)

CCAP representatives don’t think the proposed bylaw changes stop renovictions. They might even speed them up. Quoting from an e-mail…

SRO hotels are the last resort before homelessness. Last year homelessness went down a titch but only because 383 units of new housing and the Quality Inn with 157 units opened up. Next year homelessness could increase by hundreds cause the Quality Inn is closing and no new buildings that people on welfare can afford are opening. Only about 45 units in other buildings are expected. The City says we lost 300 SRO units to higher rents last year. The City claims their new amendments to the SRA bylaw will help stop these losses.

What is the City proposing?

1. They want to make landlords get a permit if they do any renos that will require the tenant to move. If the landlord goes to the City for a permit, then the City can negotiate with him for relocating the tenants, keeping rents down in the renovated units, and some other things. This would be good except that most landlords get rid of the tenants BEFORE they renovate and ask for a permit and the existing SRA bylaw would allow the City to require a permit for renovations that don’t require a tenant to move.

2. The City is proposing to increase the amount that owners MIGHT have to pay if they take their SRO unit out of the SRA bylaw by turning it into a daily-rental hotel or back-packers hostel or increasing the size beyond 320 sq. feet from $15,000 to $125,000. This is an OK move but San Francisco’s is higher, at $200,000. Also, most owners don’t take their SROs out of the SRA bylaw before they jack up rents, so it won’t affect them.

3. The City is working on a deal with the Vancity credit union to allow the City and Vancity to give grants/loans to profit and non profit hotels for upgrades in exchange for a housing agreement which could control rents. This could be good, too, if the housing agreement ensured that rents stayed at welfare rate. But the City’s record is that only one-third or less of rents have to stay at welfare rate. So this could have the impact of actually reducing the number of units that people on welfare or disability payments can afford. Also, all these hotels should be covered by the Residential Tenancy Act.

4. They are changing a piece of paper that landlords have to hang in their lobby to add it some phone numbers that tenants can call for various kinds of assistance.

5. They want higher welfare rates and more tenant assistance in hotels.

What CCAP wants

At the very least, don’t pass this bylaw now and take a few more months to think about it. Or better still:

  • Start talking about the urgency of the homeless situation with other levels of government;
    Keep the existing section e of the conversion definition so council can negotiate with landlords without tenants having to move for renos;
  • Buy enough lots for social housing to use up the money that the Province says is available ($144 million this year, $90 million next year and $39 million the year after) to build social housing. Use it for housing that people on welfare and disability can afford;
  • Put together a strong lobby for a federal/provincial social housing program that builds thousands of units of housing every year and involve contractors and developers in the lobby;
  • Change your definitions of social housing to ensure that people on welfare and disability can afford to get in;
  • Hire more inspectors and inspect SROs more rigorously and effectively;
  • If the City goes ahead with the Vancity SRO deal, ensure that tenants on welfare and disability payments, and seniors, can afford all units in the upgraded buildings;
  • A proper, plain language poster in lobbies telling tenants what their rights are, and provide funding for an SRO collaborative to organize tenants to get their rights.

Carnegie Community Action Project

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