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City of Victoria shelves proposed rental protection bylaw

Citing provincial legislation that covers much of the same ground, Victoria city councillors have voted to temporarily shelve plans for a renter-protection bylaw.
Victoria city hall clock tower generic

Citing provincial legislation that covers much of the same ground, Victoria city councillors have voted to temporarily shelve plans for a renter-protection bylaw.

Instead, they opted to see where gaps develop after the province’s Residential Tenancy Act was changed to help prevent renovictions — when landlords evict renters to allow major renovations — and develop incentives to spur development of rental housing in the city.

In proposing to suspend work on the bylaw, Mayor Lisa Helps said things have changed since council voted in September to move ahead.

Helps noted Victoria’s bylaw was to be based largely on one developed in New Westminster, but that bylaw has been deemed “inoperable” by that city since the province’s legislation came into effect in July.

She said Victoria would have to start from scratch, determining the city’s legal authority compared to provincial legislation and developing a bylaw based on gaps in legislation that has not yet been tested.

Councillors decided instead to have staff report back to council in three months on the effectiveness of the provincial legislation and to start work on incentives that could lead to an increased supply of rental accommodation in the city.

The city is also pushing the province to allow local governments to demand tenant protections from developers during the permitting stage of any proposed renovation or new development that does not require a rezoning.

The Victoria Tenant Action Group is not happy with the decision, noting it has been fighting for tenant-protection from renovictions for years and that a landlord licensing program would help hold landlords accountable.

In a letter circulated to its supporters ahead of Thursday’s council meeting, the group argued a born-in-Victoria bylaw need not start from scratch.

“The provincial change to the renoviction process was already known when council voted last month to continue work on the bylaw,” it said.

“The city also wants to wait and see how the B.C. rule change plays out. Fair enough, but protection for tenants are already years overdue in this affordable housing crisis.

“Municipal protections will be doubly overdue if the city postpones them yet again.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com