Renovictions, Gentrification and Homelessness: Summary of forum (June 11, 2014)

forum on renoviction

There was a full house on June 11th at the forum on renovictions held at the Carnegie Community Centre. The term “renoviction” is used to describe the situation where landlords evict tenants for the purported reason of repairing or renovating rental units, and though the tenants would be permitted to return, their rents are subsequently hiked to a level that force them to leave because they cannot afford the rent increases.

forum renoviction dtesThe forum on gentrification, homelessness and renovictions was organized by the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP). A number of speakers spoke for 5 minutes each. Long-time activist Jean Swanson traced the loss of SROs (single room occupancy units) from the 1980s to 2014, and illustrated (click for YouTube video) the progression through a long graph that also showed how many SROs were built annually. It was noted that the homeless count this year was 2,770 persons, higher than it has ever been.

JD Larkin of the PIVOT Legal Society noted that rents are not attached to housing units, but to a person under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA). She said that if you can force the person out, then you can raise the rents. There are several ways to force people out, and renovictions are one way to accomplish this. Even simple repairs have been used to renovict tenants. Buildings are sometimes allowed to run down, and subsequently the bad building condition is then used as an excuse for doing major repairs. As a countermeasure, the City of Vancouver could enforce its standards and maintenance bylaw to prevent buildings from falling into disrepair.

Rents can be hiked through a provision in the RTA that allows owners to apply for an exceptional rent increase where rents have been raised in nearby buildings (i.e., through renoviction). Larkin also said that there are human rights implications in the displacement of low-income residents, as renovictions disproportionately affect those on assistance, people with disabilities and aboriginal residents. Continue reading