West End renters under eviction get ready for fight as Liberals stay in power

West End renters under eviction get ready for fight as Liberals stay in power

Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier

Published: Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Monday afternoon another press conference was held in the West End in front of another apartment building where the tenants have been served eviction notices.

Sharon Isaak, a volunteer with the ad hoc Renters at Risk, said it’s a scenario that’s been playing out too often in the West End. She believes it’s the reason Liberal candidate Laura McDiarmid didn’t stand a chance running in the West End in Tuesday’s provincial election. The NDP’s Spencer Herbert, who won the riding in the provincial byelection last October, received 9,302 votes to McDiarmid’s 5,375.

“It’s fantastic that Spencer won,” said Isaak. “But the Liberals were in power yesterday, and they’re still in power today. We’re going to have to see if they change the legislation that caused this mess.” Renters rights have become a huge West End issue in the past year, particularly during the provincial byelection and last November’s municipal election. Renters advocates say the problems stem from changes to the Residential Tenancy Act in 2004 by the Liberals which allows landlords to raise rents beyond the 3.7 per cent annual limit, providing they can prove neighbouring buildings are charging higher rents. This “geographic profiling” was used by the owners of the Seafield Apartments on Pendrell Street to justify a proposed 73 per cent rent increase application.

The Residential Tenancy Office ruled last month the owners could increase the rent up to 38 per cent. Another change to the Act allows landlords to evict tenants to make way for renovations. In many cases, says renters activists, landlords have used the loophole to evict tenants, add a coat of paint to suites and then raise rents. Tenants living at the Berkeley on Bute Street were given “renoviction” notices this week and organized the press conference in response.

“I would like to see the Liberals revise the Act,” said Isaak. “It’s obvious the Act is flawed. Too many tenants are being evicted and with the Seafield ruling landlords are all going to try and raise their rents. But this is not a story about bad landlords, this is about bad government.”

Isaak said Herbert has worked to help tenants, including introducing a private members bill that would see the Act revised.

“I’m glad he’s on our side,” she said. Brian Garlick, who’s lived in the Berkeley for more than five years, said he’s glad Herbert won the riding but was disappointed the Liberals won the general election.

“I’m sorry the Liberals, or should I say the Socreds, got back into power,” said Garlick. “I know they’re not called Socreds, but a skunk by any other name is still a skunk.” The Social Credit party dominated B.C. government for almost four decades between 1952 and 1991, aside from a brief NDP administration from 1972 to 1975. It had fiscally conservative views on social welfare spending and loosened rent controls in the 1980s.

Garlick, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, said the Berkeley has been an ideal home because it’s close to St. Paul’s Hospital, where he receives treatment and also speaks to men and women with HIV and AIDS. Garlick said his situation caused him to pay close attention to the May 12 election and he now plans on volunteering to help Herbert fight for changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

“I hope he’ll be able to keep his focus on this issue, but he’s got a lot of other responsibilities too,” said Garlick. “So I’m going to be there helping.”

sthomas@vancourier.com

© Vancouver Courier 2009
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Carole James vows to protect renters, create more affordable housing

Carole James vows to protect renters, create more affordable housing

VANCOUVER — The NDP would amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prevent landlords from using minor renovations as an excuse to sharply raise rents, party leader Carole James pledged Sunday in Vancouver.

James told a crowd of about 100 West End residents that an NDP government would close a loophole that allows landlords to evict renters in order to perform renovations, after which they substantially raise rents.

Too many landlords, she said, are “putting [on] a coat of paint, fixing up a sink in a bathroom and saying: ‘By the way, your rent is going up $200.’

“Well, that has to stop.”

Under the Residential Tenancy Act, landlords can only increase rents for continuing tenants by a certain amount each year — 3.7 per cent in 2008.

But one loophole allows landlords to evict tenants, do renovations and then increase the rent for the renovated units.

James said the issue of eviction through renovation — which rental activists call “renovictions” — is an issue in other B.C. communities.

Renters have traditionally been a core part of the NDP’s base in urban ridings.

The NDP event was staged in front of the Berkeley Apartments on Bute Street, owned by landlord Satnam Singh Gandham, who applied to the city last year for permission to gut the red brick, three-storey walkup for a complete renovation.

Spencer Herbert, incumbent NDP candidate in Vancouver-West End, told the rally that tenants in the Berkeley have yet to receive eviction notices but have been told by the apartment manager that they will be delivered eventually.

Herbert said the stress of not knowing when they will be evicted has prompted many Berkeley tenants to leave.

He said nearly half of the Berkeley’s 36 suites are now empty because tenants “got afraid, threatened, and now they’ve moved on.”

James also said an NDP government would create 2,400 affordable housing units in the first year and continue to build 1,200 each following year.

James said the money would come from a $250-million housing trust fund set up by the B.C. Liberal government.

“When you have a crisis in affordable housing, why leave money in a trust fund?”

She said government “has to get back into the business of building affordable housing.”

The B.C. Liberals froze social housing construction when they came into power in 2001 but in recent years have revived spending on non-market housing for people with addictions and mental illness.

James, meanwhile, criticized Premier Gordon Campbell for allowing John van Dongen to remain as solicitor-general after his driving licence was suspended for speeding violations.

“The folks I talk to say it’s common sense to have the top cop step down after he’s been found guilty of speeding.”

Market catches up to long-term tenants; rents to rise 38 percent

Market catches up to long-term tenants; rents to rise 38 percent
By Jackie Wong April 24, 2009 05:00 pm

Source: The Tyee

An eight-month tenant-landlord battle in Vancouver’s West End came to a head this week following the public release of an April 2 decision from the Residential Tenancy Office that allows the new landlords of the Seafield apartments to issue 38 per cent rent increases to nine of the 14 units in the 77-year-old heritage building.

The hikes are lower than the 73 per cent increases originally requested by new landlords Jason Gordon and Chris Nelson, brothers-in-law and former internet gaming executives who bought the building last summer and have since been trying to bring rents up to what they see as market rates.

Seafield tenants, the oldest of whom have lived in the building for nearly 50 years, have been fighting what first seemed like evictions for renovations (what they called ‘renovictions’) and then the 73 per cent rent increases disputed during a March 11 conference-call hearing between 18 tenants, Gordon Nelson Investments, and a dispute resolution officer. Tenants are currently unable to comment further as they are seeking legal advice and a potential judicial review of the decision, but advocates say the decision marks the effective end of rent control in the province.

“I have spent the last three years of my life asking the BC Liberal government to review the [Residential Tenancy] Act, to remove sections that are causing evictions and $500-a-month rent increases. They will not do it,” Sharon Isaak told reporters yesterday.

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Renters at Risk support Grand March for Housing

rar-at-chc-housing-rally_1Renters At Risk supports
Grand March for Housing

Today, thousands of people in over 20 communities across BC marched to demand immediate government action to end homelessness, build social housing, protect rental housing and raise welfare and minimum wage rates.

In Vancouver, an estimated 5000 people attended the Rally at the Art Gallery today to show their support for a province-wide call to action to address the affordable housing crisis. The Grand March started from three locations on the East and West side, and converged at the Vancouver Art Gallery for a lively rally with bands and community speakers, who urged government at all levels to make housing a top priority.

The Rally today was organized by the Citywide Housing Coalition, a group who advocates for affordable housing and an end to homelessness. Their website (http://www.citywidehousingcoalition.org/) has information about housing news, events, issues, and links to other good housing blogs.

The rally today served as yet another wake up call that far too many people in British Columbia do not have secure or affordable housing in a place supposedly hailed as the best place on earth.

Renters at Risk was one of 65 endorsers of the event.

View the video footage on our YouTube channel.

Grand March for Housing: Sat April 4

20090402-gm_posterThe Grand March for Housing is this SATURDAY, April 4 at 12:00 Noon.

Renters at Risk and WERA are West End sponsors and we encourage everyone in our community to attend!

The March has two starting points:

Westside is gathering at Peace Flame Park (Burrard and Cornwall/ 1st ave)
This group will head down Burrard, to meet the East group at Georgia, and march together one block to the Art Gallery for the final rally location. (Before you ask about Burrard and Davie, we have to encourage people to leave the West End to go to the starting location, they want as many people walking across the Bridge as possible for the media shots)

East Side starting point at Thornton park (Main and Terminal)
This group will walk to Main/Hastings to pick up a third group, the DTES group gathering at Carnegie Centre, and then the whole group marches together down Hastings to Burrard and Georgia, where they meet the West group to march to the Art Gallery together.

Please spend some time, just a few hours, doing a final push to leaflet your building and hand out leaflets at busy spots around downtown or everywhere your daily travels take you for work. This is not just a West End event, it is for the whole lower Mainland. We will also poster key locations like community centre bulletin boards, coffee shops and telephone poles.

If you want to volunteer to help promote the event email Sharon at sharonisaak@hotmail.com


Rally For Renters’ Rights

Rally for Renters' Rights - October 25th, 2008
More than 150 people joined our Rally for Renters’ Rights
See more Rally photos on Flickr

Saturday, Oct. 25 – Renters At Risk Campaign held a successful rally & march in the West End of Vancouver at which over 150 renters gathered to express their concerns about the lack of tenant protections in the Residential Tenancy Act.

Evictions for renovations, “voluntary” rent increases, geographic market increases, and fixed term leases are all loopholes employed by corporate landlords to get around current rent control legislation (3.7%increase/year).

At the rally, RARC members loudly called for politicians to make changes to the Tenancy legislation to protect renters, including the Right of First Refusal being enacted.

Media coverage of this Rally was extensive. Provincial and national TV, radio and print covered the rally.

Politicians are listening to renters right now, but one question remains: once elected will they stay committed to strengthening renters rights? Talk to your local candidate today, and express your concerns about mass evictions and renters’ rights.

Send a message to the government about protecting renters’ rights! VOTE in the Provincial By-Elections on Oct. 29th.

MEDIA

WATCH Vancouver By-Election Candidates Speak

WATCH The Global Newscast

WATCH the CTV Newscast

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Renters fight evictions with high powered allies

ctvca

Gregor Robertson attending Rally for Renters' Rights

Gregor Robertson attending Rally for Renters' Rights

It should be a peaceful Saturday morning at home for Christine Ackermann. Except lately life’s been anything but. All of Christine’s energy has been going to figure out how she can afford to stay in her West End apartment.

“It’s really difficult,” says Christine. “I’ve already cut everything. I have my bike, I’ve sold my car.”

In the past year, Christine has been forced to pay an extra $100 a month to stave off eviction. Her landlord had tried to kick her out in order to do renovations and raise the rates. In the end, Christine fought the move and was allowed to stay — but only because she agreed to pay more.

“It’s hard because you can’t find anywhere else you go,” says Christine.

“There are no other places. The vacancy rate is so low and even if you do and are lucky enough, the rent is so high that I’d be silly to leave this place.”

rallyplate

Rally campaign materials

Christine’s situation isn’t unique. Tenant groups held a rally Saturday claiming the same thing has happened in dozens of buildings across the city. Those groups say the root of the problem is the provincial government and legislation favouring landlords.

With a by-election, civic election and provincial election all on the horizon — many familiar faces were at Saturday’s rally, trying to appear supportive of the issues. But will any of them actually commit to changing the rules to help renters?

Both the Liberal and NDP candidates in next week’s Vancouver-Burrard by-election say yes.

“Well, I’ve already been taking the concerns that have been expressed here for the past six or seven months to the minister and I’m expecting an announcement on Monday in some direction with respect to the legislation,” says Liberal candidate Arthur Griffiths.

NPD candidate Spencer Herbert agrees.

“I commit today to take action for renters and concrete actions,” he told CTV. “It’s legislative change.”

As for Christine, she says she’ll keep fighting until she sees real change and real protection for her community.

“Vancouverites do not want us being thrown out on the streets so they can hike their rents up just because the Olympics are coming and they think they can get some more money — that’s not what it’s about,” she says.

“Vancouverites need to stand up and say ‘no, this is not okay.’”

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Stephen Smart

Source – http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20081025/BC_rental_protest_081025/20081025/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

STAND FOR HOUSING A HUGE SUCCESS

animation
STAND FOR HOUSING A HUGE SUCCESS
200 PEOPLE TOOK PART


Saturday, October 18, 2008
1:00 – 2:00 pm

See photos of the rally

People joined in cities across BC , rallying to end homelessness and bringing affordable housing to all communities. Renters at Risk Campaign participated in the Stand for Housing rally. Stand in solidarity with us to protect tenants from eviction and unaffordable rent increases!

For more information see www.citywidehousingcoalition.org