Residential Tenancy Act reform - We are spearheading a project with other legal and tenants rights organizations to develop a position paper focused on reforming the provincial RTA in order to better protect tenants, enhance landlord accountability and preserve the existing low-income housing stock. Our position paper will outline the changes we would like to see to the RTA and to the Residential Tenancy Board. We are also continuing to work on strategic litigation cases related to the reforms we are seeking, including “renovictions”, RTA coverage for people in SROs and non-profit housing, failure to undertake repairs, and landlord retaliation.
Defending the rights of homeless people- While the overarching goal of the Home for All campaign is an end to homelessness, we recognize the importance of addressing violations of the rights of homeless people as well as social and legal barriers to their health and well-being. We have launched a challenge to the collection of bylaws that make it illegal for a homeless person to sleep outside on behalf of a formerly homeless client. We also continue to use our YIMBY toolkit to promote effective responses to NIMBY pressure against housing projects and other services aimed at homeless people, including opposition to Vancouver HEAT shelter locations.
Securing a Constitutional Right to Housing- We believe that housing is a human right and that Canadian's should enjoy a right to safe and affordable housing. In pursuit of this goal we have tured to the courts, and have joined a coalition of equality-seeking groups to apply to intervene in the ACTO Right to Housing Charter Challenge in Ontario.
Provincial Government Purchase of 10 SRO Hotels - In 2007, after years of advocacy by Pivot, including the release of Cracks in the Foundation: Solving the Housing Crisis in Canada’s Poorest Neighbourhood a year before, the Provincial Government made the largest social housing investment in Vancouver in more than 10 years. The Province bought 10 Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels in Vancouver. While the purchase did not create new affordable housing units, the purchase the buildings ensured that nearly 600 units would not be lost to conversion and led to significant improvements to the deplorable conditions in many of the hotels.
Standards of Maintenance By-Law- Single Room Occupancy Hotels provide some of the only affordable rental housing for Vancouver’s poorest residents. These hotels are often infested with bugs and rodents, lacking functioning heat or plumbing and generally in states of disrepair. The City of Vancouver has long had the power to rectify some of these problems through the Standards of Maintenance Bylaw, which give the City the power to enter a building and make essential repairs if the landlord refuses to do so, and then the bill the landlord through the property tax roll. However, enforcement of the Bylaw was declining as Vancouver’s housing crisis continued to grow. When the Picadilly Hotel was closed due to long-standing building standards violations in 2007, Pivot sued the City for its failure to enforce the Bylaw. In March of 2009, following discussions with Pivot, City Council finally resolved to pursue stronger enforcement. With the support of the counsel behind it, the Bylaw is working and much-needed repairs are going ahead at several buildings.
Renovictions- The term “renovictions” refers to the practice of exploiting a clause in theResidential Tenancy Act that allows landlords to evict tenants under the guise of performing major renovations and then increase the rent on the suite. At the end of 2010, the residents of Seafield apartment building were facing this exact scenario. Just before serving the notices of eviction the landlords had submitted an application for a significant rent increase and were denied. Pivot represented the residents and the Residential Tenancy Branch supported Pivot’s position that the landlord was not acting in good faith and that the purpose of the eviction was to push through rent increases and not to renovate.