1215 Bidwell: New Affordable Rental Housing Coming to Maxine’s?

If  you are wondering what is  going on with the re-development project at 1215  Bidwell Street in the West End  (currently the historic  site of Maxine’s Restaurant and Lounge, formerly Balthazaar), you are not alone.   After several year of planning,  the good news for renters  is that the project now includes 49 new rental units.  (15 bedroom and 34 bachelor units ranging from 400-515 square feet,  a  400 square foot bachelor is estimated to rent for $980/month)

The city zoning currently allow developers to build a  low-rise  structure or a tall, thin condo tower up to 210 feet on that site with no street level stores or purpose built rental units.

A third option now before council is a combination of the two.  This tower would still be 210 ft, with added rental units and street level retail space.   The front façade of the heritage building would be kept intact.   This development proposal offers  much needed purpose built rental units,  higher density ratios,  and a LEEDS green building to the site.   However, there are remaining questions around  affordability and the overall impact to the community by the development.

This project’s  rezoning application was before Council on Oct 6,2009 and will be before city council for a public hearing on Dec 1st,2009.

Agenda and reports of the Council meeting

Staff are recommending to Council that rezoning should be presented for a public hearing. At a public hearing all citizens of Vancouver have the right to speak to the rezoning and tell Council what they think about the rezoning application.
You can find more information about this  at the West End Residents Association Website ( www. wera.bc.ca)

On Saturday November 21st, the West End Residents Association is hosting a community forum at 1 pm at the Empire Landmark about current development rezoning applications in the West End community.


TRAC to handle Olympic-related tenant disputes

TRAC to handle Olympic-related tenant disputes
By:  Jackie Wong

Source: The Westender
08/06/2009 12:00 AM

As part of its efforts to prevent unfair evictions during the lead-up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the City of Vancouver has hired the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) to help renters deal with Olympic-related tenancy issues. The City had originally set aside $40,000 for a tenant-assistance worker to start work this past spring, with the position remaining active through Games time. The position will now be shared among TRAC staff, who will hire additional part-time workers to help run a drop-in office at an as-yet-undetermined location.

Games-related tenant-assistance work will focus on helping tenants understand and exercise their rights under the Residential Tenancy Act, help them prepare for dispute resolution hearings at the Residential Tenancy Branch, and assist them with landlord-tenant disputes. TRAC will also have a supervising lawyer on hand to act as a resource to tenants. TRAC has set up a special tenant-assistance phone line and e-mail address for dealing with Olympic-related tenancy issues (604-255-5102; help@tenants.bc.ca).

TRAC spokesperson Judy Johanson says she expects an increase in tenants contacting her as the Olympics draw nearer, and as one-year leases signed in December or January come to an end. “The whole idea is to foresee that this is happening,” she says. She also expressed confidence that the City and local advocacy groups have done a good job in spreading the word about increased tenant-advocacy services during Games time. The City has set up an online tenant registry (Vancouver.ca/OlympicsTempAcc_Net) for renters who are concerned about unfair displacement during the Games.

The West End, a neighbourhood in which 80 per cent of households rent, has been the site of a number of eviction cases that have been hotly disputed by tenants, some of whom have taken their cases as far as BC Supreme Court. West End Residents Association (WERA) director Christine Ackermann fought an eviction in advance of renovations — known as “renovictions” — at the Glenmore building (at Barclay and Nelson) last May. After disputing the eviction at the Residential Tenancy Office, she was able to keep her apartment. Since then, she has been heavily involved with tenant advocacy in her neighbourhood. Given what she has learned in the past year about dealing with B.C.’s tenancy laws, she’s not sure if TRAC is the right organization to be dealing with Olympic-related evictions.

“Based on my own eviction, and through my volunteer experience gathering feedback from Vancouver tenants, I am very skeptical that TRAC will be a true advocate for Vancouver renters during the Olympics,” Ackermann told WE. “Answering phones to simply answer questions from a rule book will not provide any lasting legacy for Vancouver renters who lose their homes because of Olympic greed. It certainly will not provide any increased support to Downtown Eastside residents who are dealing with a completely different renter’s ball game in the SROs.”

Instead of the current TRAC model for Olympic-related tenant-assistance work, Ackermann would like to see a more community-based model, in which volunteers who have personally experienced evictions hold education forums in neighbourhoods with high renter populations, such as Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, and Fairview. “Educating tenants in a meaningful way now would provide benefits beyond the March 2010 end point of this [tenant advocacy position],” she says. “WERA will be watching and monitoring this new service from TRAC to measure its effectiveness for West End tenants.” 

B.C. government refuses to prohibit Olympic evictions in Vancouver

B.C. government refuses to prohibit Olympic evictions in Vancouver

By Carlito Pablo
Georgia Straight –  June 24,2009

Vancouver-area tenants who are afraid of being kicked out by landlords out to make a quick buck from visitors during the 2010 Olympics may have a reason to fear some more.

The B.C. Liberal government isn’t budging on a request by the City of Vancouver to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prohibit evictions between June 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010, other than by reason of tenant default.

In a letter received by the office of Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson on June 15, B.C. housing and social development minister Rich Coleman stated that the existing provisions of the law already make it difficult for landlords to evict tenants.

Coleman also pointed out that “making changes that affect one group of landlords as distinct from another based on geographic location creates a policy that may be seen as discriminatory”.

“Affecting the rights of property owners in the manner suggested may also be seen as unfair to those property owners,” the minister wrote. “In a time where housing is scarce and private landlords are providing a valuable housing alternative, it is important to encourage them rather than discourage them.”

On April 9, Vancouver council passed a motion by Coun. Geoff Meggs that asked the province to amend the Residential Tenancy Act to prevent Olympics-related evictions.

Also included in the motion was a request that the province open a full-time staffed office of the Residential Tenancy Branch in the downtown core or along the Broadway corridor for one year, encompassing the period before and after the Games.

Coleman told Robertson that he is “mindful of the challenges landlords and tenants will experience in the time surrounding the 2010 Winter Games”.

However, Coleman stated, there are no plans by the provincial government to make changes to the act “at this time”.

We Need Rental, Today: Toderian

tyee‘We Need Rental, Today’: Toderian

Vancouver’s planning boss on the downturn, fixing the rental unit shortage, and a key charter change.

By Monte Paulsen
Published: March 3, 2009


Source: The Tyee’s Series on Affordable Housing

Both heads of Vancouver’s political hydra will officially awaken to the city’s need for affordable housing today.

“Building Affordable and Rental Housing” is the title of a motion being brought before Vancouver City Council this morning. The motion recognizes that “buying a home in the city of Vancouver requires an annual family income that is at least double what most families earn in this city,” and instructs staff to explore “short-term measures by which the City can increase the stock of rental and affordable housing,” as well as “new initiatives… to create new rental and affordable housing stock.”

“Ready for Rental?” is the title of a forum being sponsored this morning by the Urban Development Institute, a trade association that has become virtually synonymous with condominium development. “With the changing economic climate, developers are looking at other options including converting market buildings or building new rental units,” the institute advises, “and what governments can do to assist the development industry.”

Caught between these two smiling but teethy beasts of Vancouver political power is Brent Toderian, the city’s director of planning. This installment of the Homes for All series presents his views.

Continue reading

NEWS: Council makes plans for 2009

NEWS: Council makes plans for 2009

Posted By: Jackie Wong 12/24/2008 12:00 AM

Source: The Westender

Vancouver City Council will ask the province to amend the Residential Tenancy Act in an effort to improve the balance of power between tenants and landlords.  Credit: Jackie Wong

Vancouver City Council will ask the province to amend the Residential Tenancy Act in an effort to improve the balance of power between tenants and landlords. Credit: Jackie Wong

In its final meeting of the year, which ran a lengthy five hours, Vancouver City Council passed three motions that will have City staff working hard in 2009. The motions include drafting a report on how to better enforce the Standards of Maintenance bylaw, which concerns landlords’ obligations for building upkeep; an implementation plan for the Burrard Bridge; and submitting a request to the province to amend the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) as part of efforts to boost tenants’ rights.

Lone NPA councillor Suzanne Anton was the only councillor who opposed the motions about the Burrard Bridge and Residential Tenancy Act, instead favouring the original NPA plans to build a sidewalk barrier on the Burrard Bridge and to carry out a more thorough examination of what the City can do to produce more rental stock. She supported the motion about the Standards of Maintenance bylaw.

Anton expressed particular concern for her colleagues’ interest in amending the RTA. “We need to focus on what we can do,” she said at the meeting. “Sending [the motion] away and asking the province to do something [only] looks like we’re doing something, but the important thing we can do is what we’re [already] doing…, which is to promote the building of new units.”

Anton said she believes the City needs to allow for more high-capacity rental buildings in Vancouver, in order to create more units for prospective tenants, who currently face a vacancy rate of 0.3 per cent. “We need to have enough housing in the city for people to live in,” she said. “We’ve got a moratorium on tearing the old buildings down and building new buildings. I’m hoping we can lift that moratorium.”

Meeting attendee Paul Sander, who identified himself as a landlord on the council speakers’ list, also opposed the RTA motion. When Councillor Tim Stevenson asked him if he was affiliated with controversial rental-property management firm Hollyburn Properties, Sander replied, “I could be.” A man of the same name is the CEO of Hollyburn Properties.

“There is already a system of checks and balances in place,” Sander said of the motion. He also criticized council’s use of the word “loophole” in the motion. “The word ‘loophole’ is used incorrectly in this motion. It is not accurate,” he said. “The word ‘loophole’ was derived from tenant-activist groups and the media. It refers to law.”
(see footnote)

As for Sander’s argument that the word “loophole” was used incorrectly in the motion, another meeting attendee, Brian Broster, begged to differ. He is a resident of the Seafield, a 77-year-old apartment building whose tenants are facing imminent eviction by its new owners in order to clear the way for renovations. “The loophole is admitted by not only the Supreme Court, but also the government in power,” he said, referring to Supreme Court cases that stated there is a loophole in the RTA, as well as a meeting Broster and other Seafield residents had with BC Liberal housing minister Rich Coleman. “Only the bad landlords that want to essentially gouge rents and reno-vict the tenants are the ones who are complaining. Good landlords will continue to maintain their buildings [within] the rent increases allowed every year.”

Renters At Risk footnote:  The word “loophole” – referring to evicting tenants for renovations-  originally comes from law. It is a direct quote from a BC  Supreme Court judgment in one of the five BCSC court cases  involving Hollyburn Properties and Bay Towers evictions in 2006-7.

Read the full ruling here:

[23] …It could not have been the intent of the legislature to provide such a “loophole” for landlords.