December 17, 2014
Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Council
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RE: Protecting SRO Rooms in the Clifton Hotel Protecting SRO Rooms in the Clifton Hotel
Dear Mayor and Council:
I write you today in order to urge you to consider support for the Motion to Protect Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Rooms in the Clifton Hotel. While the Clifton Hotel is not a building located in my constituency of Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, issues of SRO conversion, landlord compliance with Standards of Maintenance bylaws, and housing affordability for people with a low or fixed income are all incredibly relevant for my constituents.
As you know, the available stock on the private rental market that is within reach for people on a very low income is extremely limited. For example, single people receiving income assistance or disability assistance only receive up to $375 per month to meet their rent costs, and many seniors who receive only Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement fare little better.
While the City’s collaborative efforts to build more deep-core need housing are appreciated, the reality is that there is not yet enough affordable housing to meet the demand and as a result many low-income people rely on private market SRO buildings for meeting their most basic shelter needs. I am greatly concerned that, if permits for renovations at the Clifton Hotel are granted with no further City intervention, it will put people out on the street and leave them homeless. Further, I am concerned that it could send the signal to other SRO building owners that if they put off completing minor renovations that will benefit tenant living conditions, they can wait until the repairs are significant enough to necessitate unit vacancy.
You may also know that BC’s Residential Tenancy Act makes no provisions for tenants to return to a renovated unit at a rent level comparable to that previously charged. In fact, when a tenant is asked to leave in order to complete major repairs, their tenancy agreement comes to an end. Therefore, they lose their tenure, and when the landlord completes repairs they are at liberty to set the new rent amount at a rate much higher than that previously charged. I am aware of many cases in the community in which new rents in a renovated building are well out of reach for previous tenants. While this aspect of provincial law is outside the purview of City Council, it is a part of the context for community concern about possible erosion of affordable units at the Clifton Hotel.
Therefore, I ask that you give every consideration to supporting the Motion, and look to ways that the City can usefully support non-market interventions at buildings like the Clifton Hotel, such as are suggested in the Motion.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Jenny Kwan MLA, Vancouver-Mount Pleasant