MEGA-NEWS: Rental database a success, according to city

While the City of Vancouver points to its successful Rental Standards Database as one step forward in improving the quality of the city’s rental housing, evictions for renovations, or “renovictions,” continue to put many renters on shaky ground.

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It’s been just over a year since the City of Vancouver launched its Rental Standards Database, an online tool for Vancouver residents to report violations in rental buildings with five or more units. The tool is aimed at improving the quality of Vancouver’s rental housing stock. According to Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, the database has been a success.

“Whenever we get a complaint about a place, we go investigate. If we find a deficiency, we put it up on the database outlining what the problem is,” he says.

It’s actually spurred the landowners themselves to get [the violations] off the database.”

The city has cited a 75 per cent drop in reported building violations since the site launched in early 2013. The year before the site launched in 2012, the city received 7,210 notices of violations.

Those notices were related to issues with fire safety standards; signage; electrical, plumbing, gas, and sewer; and untidy premises. Today, there are just 1,575 reports of violations.

The database covers 70,000 Vancouver rental units in some 2,500 buildings, which is just over half of the estimated 130,000 total units in the city. But it leaves out some 60,000 units, including secondary or basement suites. Since many secondary suites are built without permits, the city doesn’t have concrete information on the total number of those suites in Vancouver.

And while the database tracks building violations, it doesn’t track construction permits that could lead to substantial renovations leading to evictions, or “renovictions,” as some tenant advocates call them. Jang maintains that since construction permits are not specific about the scale of renovations, such information wouldn’t be useful to tenants.

“We’re getting people to get proper licences out—not everyone’s done it yet,” he says, adding this is happening when people are renovating their suites.

“On new construction, back in 2008, we changed the bylaws so that when you build a new home, you can build a proper legal suite.”

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