MLA Report

By Carole James

Victoria is facing an affordable housing crisis and over the last year tenant issues have been front and centre in our community. My office has been hearing from a large number of tenants who have faced renovictions, ever-rising rents, pressure from landlords to move, and deplorable living conditions in buildings undergoing major renovations.

With historically low vacancy rates in our city, tenants are often forced to endure high rents and unacceptable conditions because they have nowhere else to go. We’re hearing a lot about disruption from renovations, poor communications by some building owners, and uncertainty around safety with concerns like asbestos contamination.

In four of the buildings undergoing renovations in our neighbourhood, WorkSafe BC posted a stop work order when disturbance of asbestos was suspected, and no workers were allowed in the buildings until asbestos testing had been conducted. This included building managers, postal carriers and home care workers, causing a disruption to important services. To make matters worse, residents weren’t given clear information on what possible hazardous conditions they were dealing with, and understandably there was a lot of concern. Tenants were asking why it was considered acceptable to leave them living in the buildings at possible risk to their health, when full precautionary measures applied for workers.

Many tenants have contacted my office regarding excessive construction noise levels and renovations going on from early morning to late at night and sometimes even on weekends. Tenants understand there will be challenges related to construction, and they are not being unreasonable in their requests. They simply feel that little consideration has been given to their quality of life, right to quiet enjoyment of their private homes, air quality and other safety issues.

My office has worked hard to raise tenant concerns with the building managers and the owners, in order to improve living conditions for tenants, resolve some disputes, and open up better lines of communication. We will continue that work to ensure tenants have a voice and always with the goal of improving these situations.

I have written to Housing Minister Rich Coleman outlining many of the concerns I have been hearing from our community. I have asked him to ensure that appropriate precautions are in place to protect tenants from asbestos contamination and other hazards when their buildings or units are being renovated.

Government could also make changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, the legislation that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants.

In this spring’s legislative sitting, my colleagues and I in the Official Opposition will once again be introducing a bill to amend the Act. If passed, this bill would increase protections for tenants. We’ve tabled it previously, and the government has ignored it time and time again. Hopefully this time will be different.

Renters in our community require government to act in their best interests, and striking a fairer balance between landlords and tenants would help resolve many of the current issues. Whether we own or rent, we all deserve a home that is safe, comfortable and secure. I will continue to speak up for the rights and well being of all residents in my community.