Vacancy Control in SRO’s

September 16, 2020

The VDLC is calling on the City of Vancouver to legislate rents tied to SRO units, not to tenants. This policy, also known as vacancy control, will help to save crucially needed affordable housing spaces for those who may otherwise face homelessness. 

On December 10, 2019, Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion to ask the province for vacancy control in the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units, and investigate ways that the city can control rents, to slow the rapid loss of affordable housing in this stock and protect vulnerable Vancouver residents.

SRO’s are roughly 100 square foot rooms with no kitchen or private bathrooms, which are typically rented for $300-$500 per month to low income persons including welfare recipients. These units are often the last stop before homelessness, and therefore it is crucial that they are preserved until the homelessness crisis is ended.

The city can legislate that rents in SRO’s be tied to the unit, not the tenant, so that they remain affordable even when tenancy changes. This can be done by using the Business License bylaw to impose penalties on landlords who raise rents between tenancies. The City of New Westminster has implemented this form of vacancy control, and it’s right to do so was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal. If landlords refuse to adhere to the legislation or to pay applicable fines, the city has the option of expropriating the property in question. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we approach colder temperatures in the coming months, it is more critical than ever that we ensure housing for all. 

UPDATE: On October 7, the Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities will discuss the SRO Revitalization Progress Update and 2019 Low Income Housing Survey. 

This will be another opportunity to push for the implementation of vacancy control in SRO’s. The VDLC is preparing a letter, endorsed by several local unions, encouraging action on this issue. 

You can help by signing up to speak, or sending written remarks. To view the meeting agenda, the report and to submit comments or sign up to speak, click HERE

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