Politics

Vancouver mayor promises to protect renters as concern grows over Broadway Subway Project


With significant redevelopment expected as part of Broadway Subway Project construction, Vancouver’s mayor says he wants to add further protections for renters.

Kennedy Stewart plans to propose changes which would offer renters the right to return to new buildings when demovicted — at the same rent or lower than they were paying before.

“The whole idea is that the relocation of tenants would be a rare event. But these folks would be fully compensated either with a cash payment or a right to return to a new building at or below their current rents,” Stewart explained Tuesday.

When people move out of those units, Stewart wants to change the rules to ensure they stay below market rents on an income-tested basis. His staff say those units would stay below market rents, even if a tenant moves on.

Currently, people who need to leave due to redevelopment are offered $1,000 in moving expenses as well as more money based on how long they lived in the building.

The mayor’s team says for most tenancies along Broadway, the future protections would see renters pay 20 per cent below “the city-wide average.”

Many renters who have lived in the area for decades could be paying hundreds of dollars below market value, and it’s unclear how the mayor expects these projects to be able to honour those rents in an increasingly unaffordable city where the average rent in April was close to $2,000 for a one bedroom home. Those long-term renters may have weathered inflation, as rents can only be raised a small amount each year.

The mayor used an example of a tenant who has lived along the Broadway corridor for 37 years and currently pays $1,000 per month, saying they would be able to move into a new unit at the same monthly rent.

However, many say the issue goes beyond money, and there is an emotional connection to these buildings.

“We’re very concerned that we’re actually seeing a transit-oriented displacement. And it’s adding fuel to an already burning fire,” said Mazdak Gharibnavaz, organizer of the Vancouver Tenants Union.

The Broadway Subway Project is a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line, from VCC-Clark Station to Broadway and Arbutus. The project is on schedule for the new line to open in 2025, according to the website.
The Broadway Subway Project is a 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line, from VCC-Clark Station to Broadway and Arbutus. The project is on schedule for the new line to open in 2025, according to the website. (broadwaysubway.ca)

“A city is its people, and renters have made these homes in the Fairview area, Mt Pleasant they’ve contributed to those communities and built those communities,” Gharibnavaz told CityNews.

Read more: Broadway SkyTrain developments raise questions for renters

Many say they are worried over how these protections will be honoured with the absence of an enforcement body, and have been speaking with the Vancouver Tenants Union over their worries.

The final draft of the plan will shown at council in a matter of weeks.

But if Stewart’s changes are made without lifting various restrictions, Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties, feels certain rental projects simply won’t go ahead.

“It’s an existing policy that works in Burnaby, but it only works because they give necessary height and density to make it work,” Stovell told CityNews. “That’s what [Vancouver] city council is going to have to do. If they accept this amendment, that’s what they’re going to have to do. They can’t just change this part of the policy. They have to change the part of the policy to allow the buildings to basically be bigger, compensate for it.”

As for Stewart’s push for those units to stay below market rents — even after a tenant moves out — Stovell calls vacancy control a death knell for projects.





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