The Record asks what do I think of the premier’s proposed changes to strata housing? It think it sounds like a cheap, opportunistic dodge and am very disappointed in the NDP for forcing a simplistic, shallow, dictatorial, ineffective Band-Aid. At the very least, it seems the former housing minister either does not have a good understanding of strata living, or simply does not care. As if the aim is to make it look as if he is riding to the rescue, rather than actually finding any effective solutions.
Mr. Eby tries to strike a righteous tone about people struggling to find rentals and willing condo owners not being allowed to rent to them. He does not seem to comprehend that a condo owner does not live on their own little island. What an individual owner does can closely affect the well-being of several or all of the owners sharing the building.
Strata living is a communal situation because the owners are responsible for the repair, maintenance and insurance expenses of their shared structure.
It is very important for strata communities to have committed owners in residence for the sake of maintaining the building and protecting their investment.
I once worked with someone who lived in a condo tower that had no rental restrictions. He said that over the years it had ruined the building’s condition and general livability. He eventually sold in order to buy into a more restricted strata. A no-restrictions rental mandate takes that option away.
A no-rentals or limited amount of rentals bylaw, as currently permitted under the Strata Property Act (SPA), is a democratic process. The owners in place voted on what they thought is best for their building and community. But the restrictions are not written in stone. Over time, with changes in ownership, a new vote might be requested. But the status still remains a democratic process, not mandated by an outside, uninvolved force that does not have to deal with its impact.
Regardless of restrictions, stratas are required to permit owners to rent if they can prove genuine economic hardship or that the tenants are immediate family members. (Proving is important; I know of one former owner who tried to claim hardship while at the same time buying two more stratas in another municipality.)
The premier also bemoans young couples wanting to start a family but having to move because of age restrictions (another democratic vote likely based on some very noisy and/or destructive experiences). That isn’t the only reason the couple could be required to move. Age restrictions or no, fire safety regulations determine suite occupancy: a one-bedroom suite, even with a den, is permitted two occupants. Baby would make three.
Tony Gioventu of CHOA has itemized the problems with the premier’s proposal very well, in a letter-statement issued by CHOA on Nov. 21, including how it opens the door for investors and speculators to gain control of a building. There is something else, however.
No-rental stratas likely have a few rentals happening anyway, due to a few dishonourable and devious owners who don’t want to sell yet for various reasons. It is a difficult matter to ferret out, and happened in my strata — perhaps is still happening, only with different parties. I know of other stratas that have unwittingly been in the same boat. So even no-rental stratas may already have as many rentals as they can absorb in terms of owner involvement with maintaining the properly.
The government needs to generate purpose-built rental housing (decent, sociable living spaces, not micro-unit rabbit hutches) for low- and middle-income people, instead of twisting already existing privately owned properties to suit the government’s need for a good look.
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