Decriminalizing Homelessness - While the overarching goal of the housing campaign is to end homelessness, we recognize the importance of addressing violations of the rights of homeless people and of removing social and legal barriers to their health and well-being. We have launched a challenge to the collection of Vancouver bylaws that make it illegal for a homeless person to sleep outside on behalf of a formerly homeless client. We are also representing two homeless people in Abbotsford who have been the subject of police harassment as a result of being homeless.
Landlord Accountability - We are engaged in litigation and advocacy involving a few large, problematic landlords. The goal of this work is to hold these particularly bad landlords to account where they break the law, harass tenants, or compromise the health and safety of residents. We are also using these cases to draw attention to the scale of the problem in order to achieve stronger government oversight and accountability mechanisms within BC’s Residential Tenancy System.
Defining and Preserving DTES Low-Income Housing Stock -There can be no doubt that Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is in a period of transition. We are currently engaged in an affidavit collection project to document the experiences of DTES residents with evictions from SRO hotels. We are focused on potential avenues for litigation, but also on ways that the City of Vancouver can strengthen the Single Room Accommodation Bylaw to prevent further loss of housing for people on income assistance and other very low-income renters. We are also asking the City to commit to a clear definition of low-income housing that will protect the lowest income earners.
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 gives 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 the Residential 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.