Tag Archives: Renters

Letter: New condos leave us homeless

Following is a letter published in the Richmond News on July 28th, and speaks of a common concern in the City of North Van:

Dear Editor,

One hundred and forty families in central Richmond will have to move soon as our rental building is being torn down for condos ­— condos that we cannot afford to buy. 

Condos are so hot now that buyers are putting in offers sometimes $50,000 dollars over asking and without subjects. The loans the government is willing to lend first-time buyers only make the housing market more unaffordable. A 20-year-old two-bedroom apartment lists at almost half a million dollars.

I thought as a teacher I had a good job, but I can’t afford a home in Vancouver. The B.C. economy does not allow the average person to legally make enough money to buy an apartment. Notice, I didn’t say house. Those rarities are for investors or the lucky children of people who bought years ago.

There is a problem here. The high-rise condos that will replace my apartment building will not densify the neighbourhood because most of them will sit empty. 

The property speculators who are building these new buildings believe renting devalues them. When our buildings are torn down, there will be 140 families looking for accommodation. The vacancy rate is under one per cent in Richmond! Waiting lists for most co-ops are closed. 

Where are we to go?

Renters who work in the city will have to move farther afield. But now there’s another problem. The Liberals’ 15 per cent tax did not extend to outlying areas. So now homes in Maple Ridge and Chilliwack have gone up by 12 per cent from last year. Are we supposed to move to another province? 

A lot of young people who were raised in B.C. have moved away because of unaffordable housing. If the government cannot do something as simple and necessary as providing affordable housing — we’re not asking them to solve climate change here — then we really need to ask ourselves if they’re competent enough to manage the province.

Some people may think that since they own their house, none of this applies to them. 

Well, sorry, it does. 

I have friends who own houses and say they can’t move because the prices are too expensive to move up the property ladder. Their children have moved and they see their grandkids once or twice a year. No one wins, except for the property speculators who’ve turned what used to be affordable homes into lottery tickets. Our slogan should be Formerly Beautiful BC.

Lexy Clayburn

Richmond

http://www.richmond-news.com/opinion/letters/letter-new-condos-leave-us-homeless-1.21442532

Airbnb and North Shore renters

Airbnb is in the news a lot lately, following is an opinion piece from Elizabeth James (former contributing writer for the North Shore News):  

At the time this is written, delegates to the 2016 convention of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) are about to discuss issues raised by the proliferation of Airbnb short-term rentals throughout British Columbia. Details of those discussions are not yet available, so the following is just one person’s view of the current situation.

Note: This article is presented ‘in general’. Each of our North Shore municipalities has its own set of bylaws and regulations so you may need to modify my comments to fit your own neighbourhood.

The most obvious issue so far concerns the effect Airbnb rentals may be having on the availability of affordable housing in the wider Metro Vancouver region.

Should we sympathize with a homeowner who welcomes the Airbnb short-term rental income to help them stay afloat in today’s economy? Or should we save our concern for our seniors and young people who are left without a place to call home when, legally or otherwise, those units are taken out of the year-round pool of rental accommodations?

A review of the Airbnb site shows that some hosts own multiple properties that operate as a full-fledged ‘chain’ of short-term rentals. Is that what we want to see in our so-called single family neighbourhoods? In other words, wherever the accommodation is located, Airbnb hosts are operating businesses.

Although Airbnb claims their accommodations have a positive effect https://www.airbnb.ca/press/news/study-finds-that-airbnb-hosts-and-guests-have-major-positive-effect-on-city-economies, as some Lynn Valley residents can attest, the constant coming and going and parking problems caused by the ever-changing faces of the ‘people next door’ doesn’t foster a stable, secure and friendly feeling of community.

Which leads us to other issues that are overdue for closer examination – issues that relate to whether or not municipalities have any say over where and how many Airbnb rentals are located. If not, your municipality may have lost control over some of its zoning and land-use by-laws, permit fees and tax revenues.

Just as concerning is that, for good or ill and absent due process, the character of some North Shore neighbourhoods is being altered, perhaps irretrievably. If that’s the case for you and you don’t like what you see, why not check with your other neighbours and/or plead your case to Staff and Council before it’s too late for them to take action.

Some questions in need of answers:

Did the Airbnb host(s) on your street apply for a municipal business permit?

Have they been inspected and approved as an when as necessary?

Are they paying the fees as required for their annual business licence?

Those questions are relevant because, under the authority of the Community Charter of British Columbia, all three municipalities have enacted strict regulations covering secondary suites, duplexes and Bed and Breakfast operations.

As one example: The District of North Vancouver allows a straightforward B&B in single family residential zones but Divides them into Class 1(up to 3 bedrooms and 6 patrons) and Class 2 (4-6 bedrooms). Both classes are required to provide a specified number of off-street parking spaces.

Most importantly, Class 2 units require Council approval and a public meeting at which neighbours may voice their support or opposition to the application. Class 2 also requires a wide array of working, Code-specified safety features before a permit will be issued.

Again in the District, an annual B&B licence fee is required – $63 per B&B room.

According to an advertisement currently running on local television, 60 per cent of Airbnb hosts use the income they earn to help pay their mortgages or rents. So the closing questions for now are: Is Airbnb licensed to do business in the jurisdictions in which it operates? Are all of its hosts licensed to do business in their municipalities and, last but not least, are they declaring their revenues for income tax purposes?

Stay tuned for UBCM announcements. Your comments would be welcome.

Elizabeth James

rimco@shaw.ca

Airbnb blamed for increasing pressures on rental markets

Comment from Voices:  The City of North Van has one of the highest percentages of renters in Metro Vancouver (45.7% from the 2011 census).  The drive for development has displaced many and many more will come.   Do you think Council should be focusing on housing for existing residents instead of pet projects which are the current focus?  

Should new development have a higher percentage of family accommodation (2 or 3 bedroom units)?  Is Airbnb impacting the long term rental market?  There are more than 300 North Vancouver units listed on their website (https://www.airbnb.ca/).  Should the City be regulating short term rentals and working with Airbnb on collecting taxes?  Other cities are.

Article in the Globe and Mail:

Cities take aim at Airbnb

Airbnb and other short-term operators are being blamed for reducing housing for renters, reports Sunny Dhillon

Concerns about Airbnb’s impact have spread beyond major cities

Source: Airbnb blamed for increasing pressures on rental markets

Homelessness and evictions – letter to Editor, NSNews

We have been copied on the following letter to the Editor, North Shore News and reprinted with permission.   Unfortunately, this is a reality for far too many renters – not just in North Vancouver. Currently as long as the owner/developer meets all City regulations nothing can be done to stop them.  

Profit, rarely human consideration, is the driver.

Dear Editor:
 
As one who lives in a building which has just been  sold and usually means an eviction notice is on the way, may I think you for bringing this situation to the attention of North Shore residents.
Sadly this is not a something that just started suddenly, but has been happening slowly and continually for several years now.
There has been more then enough time for those who are elected (and paid) to represent this community in a fair and equal manner to step up to the plate, but for some reason it would appear that the Developers are now in complete control, certainly in the 2 North Vancouver’s.   Where have Thornthwaite, Yamamoto and Wilkinson been hiding when more and more of their constituents are being forced out of their homes? 
Are they even the slightest aware of the destruction on so many levels are taking place, and even more importantly do they even care?  Do they even know the extent of it:

  • Neighbourhood against neighbour = Moodyville is a prime example of what is about to happen where I understand that 10 people do not want to leave their homes.  Are their feelings being respected by their fellow neighbours and the evermore powerful Developers?
  • People who are being forced out because they are simply renters, they are also members of our community and they pay taxes, may have children in local schools, have local jobs and are productive members of our society. What kind of discrimination is this and how can this even be legal?
  • Environment – what planet do these politicians think we live on that we actually believe that the impact of all this massive development will NOT impact our traffic, not to mention contribute to huge increases in pollution and all the health risks that entails.
  • Cement is green??  Still waiting for an intelligent explanation that says tearing down trees and replacing with walls of cement is a “green” thing.
  • Loss of wildlife.  OK so skunks are not my favourite animal but they are a part of our environment as are squirrels, racoons and who does not want to hear the sound of birds on a regular basis?

 
Like so many others I have watched with so much sadness as those 80 thousand were forced out of their homes in For MacMurray but also with pride to see how quickly and how much the Canadian people came together to support them.   Being forced out of one’s home is devastating enough, but to have that happen when your fellow citizens and politicians look the other way is just plain evil and should never happen in a country that boasts of its human rights record, and reputation of fairness and justice…………and it should NEVER happen in a place like North Vancouver.
 

Sue  Lakes Cook  

City of North Vancouver reviews draft housing action plan

Source: City of North Vancouver reviews draft housing action plan

From the North Shore News today:

The City of North Vancouver embarked on what the mayor termed the “issue of a generation” April 18: creating affordable housing.

Could city-owned land on Alder Street, East First Street, or at Harry Jerome be turned into an affordable haven for wayward renters? Should the city offer tax breaks to developers who provide low-income housing?

The easy decisions have been made, leaving council with only controversial options of how best to accommodate an estimated 2,300 new residents over the next decade, said Mayor Darrell Mussatto.

“A lot of the easy, low-hanging fruit has been picked,” he said, reflecting that a way of life would have to change.

“We may not all be able to live in a single-family home as we grew up in,” he said. “It can be just as good or better, but it means different.”

The city’s collection of Second World War-era bungalows could be situated at the rear of lots and turned into coach houses, according to CitySpaces, a consulting firm specializing in housing.

That notion rankled Coun. Rod Clark, who said the modest homes in his Moodyville neighbourhood would “face the wrecker’s ball before we have any sort of housing plan.”

While new towers go up, rental fees tend to shoot up with them, noted Coun. Pam Bookham.

“How can we … discourage wholesale redevelopment of our older but still viable housing stock?” Bookham asked.

There is a “potential risk” of higher prices, said Jada Basi, a social policy planner with CitySpaces. However, new developments should help alleviate the lack of rental supply elsewhere in the city, according to Basi.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Bookham responded.

Three-storey walk-ups have a limited life span, pronounced Coun. Holly Back.

“When they’re done, we have to admit that they’re done,” she said. “What are we going to do to replace the affordable? I don’t have the answer.”

Parking proved a divisive issue at council, following CitySpaces’ suggestion to do away with parking entirely on low-cost rental buildings near the SeaBus.

Instead of requiring the standard 1.2 parking stalls per unit, the city should only ask for 0.3 stalls per unit on rental buildings within 400 metres of transit, according to CitySpaces.

That idea may amount to discrimination against car owners, countered Coun. Don Bell.

“If I wanted to move down next to the SeaBus I can’t have a car, because I’m not going to find parking anywhere, that’s for damn sure,” he said.

The city should explore creating a rent bank, which would offer loans to renters facing eviction or homelessness, according to Basi.

There were 119 homeless people reported in the 2014 count. That count recorded 47 homeless people in the city in 2002.

The rent bank would be overseen by the municipality and operated by a non-profit, she explained.

“There are a small amount of loans that aren’t paid back, so usually the business model has a contingency built into it to cover those costs,” Basi said.

CitySpaces also recommended requiring a higher percentage of three-bedroom units in new buildings to create homes for more families.

While she appreciated the goal of creating affordable housing, Bookham was concerned council might be conflating density with affordability.

“If all (the plan does) is get us additional density but they don’t solve any of these housing challenges, we would be better to simply admit we’re allowing market forces to basically determine who will be living here,” she said.

The city needs to reach out to seniors and low-income residents to get their input on the plan, according to Coun. Linda Buchanan.

“Doing nothing is a choice, but it’s not the right choice,” she said.

Council paid $50,000 to create the housing action plan to provide more homes for families, seniors, youth at risk of homelessness and low-income earners, particularly around one-parent households.

 

– See more at: http://www.nsnews.com/news/city-of-north-vancouver-reviews-draft-housing-action-plan-1.2240357#sthash.dyUtchxo.dpuf

Rental residents are vulnerable in CNV

We received two emails today.  One addressed to Mayor and Council, City of North Van and the other from a resident concerned about her own rental situation in a building recently sold to a new owner.

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The common theme in both is homelessness and affordable housing.  The one from the long time resident included pictures of lack of maintenance in the building, rodent infestation, mold, unsafe railings.  The building residents have concerns that the building is being allowed to deteriorate in order to justify the new owners plan to demolish it.

The email to Mayor and Council follows:

Subject: A small win for Victoria’s homeless. Big implications for Canada – The Globe and Mail
Mr Justice Hinkson, in his decision as reported in the link provided, has shown both compassion and wisdom.

City’s seeking to redevelop, which in so doing create homeless casualties of their residents, can expect those residents to move to and lawfully occupy public spaces. In effect, driving the most vulnerable from their homes may result in unintended consequences which benefit no one.

In light of the Hinkson decision councils need to be cognizant of the collateral damage they create when they close whole neighbourhoods like Moodyville or destroy MURB built affordable rental stock like Mountain Court replacing these housing units with unaffordable market housing, and token numbers of subsidized housing units, in exchange for granting wholesale restructuring does not address the problem.

If councils don’t begin to do a better job of supporting the needs of existing vulnerable rental residents, those without options may just choose to make a home in the most unpredictable of public places, and based on Justice Hinkson’s decision, the City will be unable to do anything to stop them.

Do you know how many homeless already live in our public parks and under our bridges in semi permanent structures?  Quite a few!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com//opinion/a-small-win-for-victorias-homeless-big-implications-for-canada/article29560693/?cmpid=rss1&click=sf_globe

Kerry Morris
‘For A Better Tomorrow’

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City must take lead on housing

Comment from Voices:  Reprinted below is a letter borrowed from Burnaby Now, and the concerns stated apply equally to renters in the City of North Van.  We do note that the City of North Van is developing a Housing Action Plan: http://www.cnv.org/HousingActionPlan.

This is the most recent report (2013) on Policy Directions: Housing Affordability and Diversityhttp://www.cnv.org/~/media/7EDE66C142DB4FFC89C9279AD37FF99A.PDF

We believe that the top two priorities for housing are: security for renters, and family friendly affordable housing. Another article worth a read:

http://www.vancouversun.com/business/affordability/Vancity+housing+affordability+index+Rising+prices+hammer+housing+affordability/11288553/story.html

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City must take lead on housing.

‘I would like to respond to Chiyo Buston’s letter of July 29 (Govts need to work together on housing). When Buston says that “Only homeowners pay property taxes,” the implication is that renters don’t pay taxes. This incorrect. Renters pay property taxes also. This money is raised by landlords through the rent tenants pay.

Buston also mentions that older rental buildings are becoming run down as if there is nothing that can be done about it. For two years now, ACORN has been asking Burnaby city council to enact standards of maintenance bylaws that would prevent irresponsible landlords who charge premium rent for accommodation while not maintaining their buildings. Because the provincial government has ignored enforcing standards of maintenance on landlords for the last 15 years, some cities like Surrey have been stepping in to protect their citizens.

In regard to Buston’s comments on homeless people coming to B.C. from other areas, it doesn’t matter where or why homeless people are here. What matters is that they are in our city, and they need help. The municipal government should not refuse to help and hope the problem goes away because they think it is ultimately a provincial/federal government responsibility. Like so many of our neighbouring municipalities, Burnaby is free to adopt an affordable housing strategy. For example, in May this year, the City of Richmond announced an affordable housing program. Then they invited the federal and provincial governments to participate. What is preventing the mayor and council from doing likewise here?

If council wants to help renters, here are a few suggestions. First, follow the lead of other municipalities and introduce standards of maintenance bylaws to protect Burnaby renters. Second, stop allowing the destruction of affordable rental housing stock by refusing to rezone rental properties to condominiums. Third, require developers to include social housing units in every newly built condominium development that council approves. Fourth, raise property taxes on unoccupied housing to prevent speculators from continuing to drive up property prices and rents in the city. The revenue raised by increased property tax on speculators can be in turn used to fund standards of maintenance bylaws and subsidize social housing.

ACORN does not blame Burnaby city council for the present housing crisis. However, there are things the city can do to mitigate the problem and treat all residents as equals and not give priority to the needs of property owners. All residents of Burnaby are citizens and deserve to be treated as such.

Ric Erb is co-chair of ACORN Burnaby.’

– See more at: http://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/columnists/city-must-take-lead-on-housing-1.2030099#sthash.lCYUBKcN.dpuf