Wednesday, September 22, 2021

City's Renoviction Bylaw to serve as a complement to provincial legislation

Prince Rupert City Council moved forward with a new policy towards the issue of Renovictions on Monday evening, giving First and Second reading for a new Municipal bylaw to address some of the growing issues related to the housing situation in the city. 

The City's contract planner Rob Buchan rolled out the new document, known as the Business Regulation and Licensing Renoviction Bylaw noting how the proposed bylaw is one of the Housing actions recently adopted by the Council membership and how it will control evictions related to renovations of properties in the community.

"The Community Charter enables the city to establish business regulations which discourage landlords from evicting tenants for building renovations, without making arrangements for each tenant to continue their tenancy at the same rent during and after the renovations" -- City of Prince Rupert contract Planner Rob Buchan outlining the main thrust of the city's proposed renoviction bylaw

As part of his presentation, Mr. Buchan made note of recent changes to Provincial legislation designed to prevent illegal renovictions, with the planner observing how the city's bylaw would be implemented with the provincial changes in place.

"I would note that the province has recently amended the Residential Tenancy Act to improve protections for tenants facing possible evictions, this bylaw does not replace that but it complements that recent amendment to the act"

As for discussion towards the proposed bylaw, Councillor Niesh had questions related to some of the  elements of the new city policy, particularly towards the scope of what buildings would be covered by the bylaw and what elements of the proposal pertain to them.  

In reply, Mr. Buchan advisied he would clarify some of the language towards the new bylaw towards those concerns.

Mr. Niesh, recounted a recent location he had visited as a possible investment and the scope of the work that would be required to renovate it, adding his concerns that the bylaw may work against the city's desire to see suitable housing created in the community.

"I want to see things get fixed, but if someone has to buy something and offer that apartment back to them for the same 400 dollar,s but is expected to spend half a million dollars renovating. I feel that what might end up happening is that buildings will get left, they won't get renovated, they won't get sold and they'll fall down before they get any work done to them" -- Councillor Wade Niesh during the Renoviction Bylaw discussion

The contract planner made note of some of the provisions of the proposed bylaw towards building maintenance that would be in place to avoid that scenario as outlined by the Councillor.

To the theme of the bylaw proposal, Mr. Buchan made note of areas where the building owners  have some options towards addressing the provisions of the bylaw and how Council could tailor the bylaw to those areas of concern by the Council members.

Councillor Adey also had some questions related to the wording of the bylaw and how it may make for some confusion for building owners. 

He also observed as to how tight the housing and rental market is in the community, expressing a concern as to how building owners would provide for alternative housing in the interim of the renovations, if none is available and what would happen then.

Mr. Buchan noted that in such situations how the Provincial guidelines would probably take effect at that point. 

The Mayor following up with an observation that basically the city's bylaws would be seen as a secondary kind of catchment policy for items that don't apply to the provincial level.

Mr. Brain also noted that the city's policy is more that of a protections type of thing.

Something that all seems to suggest that for property owners, the provincial legislation would trump much of the narrative on renovictions from  City's entry into the debate.

Towards further discussion, Councillor Cunningham made note of exemptions for single detached dwellings.

"There's a lot of houses for rent in town here, that shouldn't be rented and they're single detached"

In reply, Mr. Buchan noted that the city had used a bylaw from New Westminster as its model which includes single detached dwellings in their exclusions and that the city's policy is designed to try to avoid the prospect of any legal challenges, though he observed it's at the discretion of Council to include or exclude those properties.

Councillor Mirau suggested that Council seek a report back from the city's contract planner to explore further whether they should exclude those single detached dwellings from their policy.

"I think we all know that Prince Rupert has pretty high proportion of single family homes built around, you know wartime that are owned as investment properties and not as primary residences and I think a higher number than most other small communities of our size in the north. So I would be curious as what the implications of that exemption would be"

For his contribution to the discussion Councillor Randhawa asked if Prince Rupert was following other communities or creating new legislation on its own.

While the Council members raised a volume of questions to the policy elements, Councillor Adey offered his support of the legislation, adding that following first and second reading on the night, the opportunity to clear up some of the questions was available before final reading arrives. 

With that Mayor Brain called for the vote on first and second reading and then noted of the feedback provided by Council and what was needed from the city's planner for the next session.

You can review the full discussion on the topic by the council membership from the City's Video Archive starting at the 29 minute mark.

More notes on the Monday Council session can be explored from our Council Timeline Feature.

Past Council discussion topics are available for review here.

While past notes when it comes to  housing in the city can be found from our archive page.

1 comment:

  1. Is this going to apply to the many illegal suites around town. Many of these suites are not close to conforming. To bring them into compliance the owner might just decide it is not worth it. Once renos are done and the reno’d suite is still non-conforming will the city allow the tenant to move back in? This would be the city condoning a landlord breaking the bylaws.

    Is the city setting a review board or are the councilors going to handle appeals the city should be independent of the review process.