Victoria forms advisory committee for renters

Renters will soon have a voice at Victoria City Hall.

City councillors have endorsed a motion brought forward by Coun. Sharmarke Dubow and Coun. Jeremy Loveday to form a renters’ advisory committee.

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Dubow noted that about 60 per cent of the city’s residents are renters and said they are “under-represented” in the city decision-making process.

“If you don’t involve the people who are most affected by an issue in co-creating solutions, then interventions will not be effective or long-lasting,” Dubow said, adding that the city is in the midst of a housing crisis.

“Inviting people to city hall who first have experienced the problem will bring a new sense of urgency and that is one of the promises I made through my campaign,” he said.

Loveday said he had hoped to initiate the committee last term.

“I think it’s important that we include those [tenant] voices in a meaningful way from the beginning of this term to help set the tone for the term and to help make sure that renters are included in the decisions that we make over the next four years,” Loveday said.

“I think it’s time for a majority of the population to have a formal voice in decisions relating to housing, particularly rental housing. It’s long overdue,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.

Coun. Geoff Young said he had no doubt the committee would make recommendations on issues such as standards of maintenance or rental costs.

But he said some recommendations might end up being incompatible with each other.

He cited the province’s recent decision to limit rent increases next year to two per cent.

“When the province made that ruling, thousands and thousands of rental units disappeared in a puff of air,” Young said, as many landlords and potential landlords would look at the new rate of return because of that and choose not to rent out a unit.

Likewise, adding new standards of maintenance to rental buildings also can affect potential landlords’ decisions to create or maintain rental units, Young said.

“People are suggesting what the problems are and how they are going to be solved by this. I’m suggesting there are some problems that are going to be created by this,” Young said.

The committee, comprising 12 members of the public and two non-voting council liaisons, is to provide recommendations and advice to city councillors and staff on:

• Policies to increase rental stock.

• Improving conditions and well-being for city renters.

• Strategic priorities for the city relating to renters.

• Impacts of provincial and federal legislation affecting renters.

• Enhancing access and inclusion for renters in developing municipal policy.

• Other matters deemed relevant to the interests of city renters.

The city will seek applications from the public for members.

Since 2014, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city has increased by $200 a month, the average sale price of a condo has increased $100,000 and the vacancy rate has dropped to less than one per cent, Dubow said. The condo price increase has kept renters in the rental market much longer than historic norms, he said.

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