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West Vancouver approves new demoviction protections for renters

The rules also require developers to show how additional density on rental properties will contribute to the district’s housing needs
Currently, there are 36 rental sites in the district with around 2,038 units, according to a staff report. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

West Vancouver renters can rest a little easier knowing that developers will have to make significant accommodations for them should their existing homes be demolished and redeveloped.

At a meeting Monday evening, council unanimously approved a newly created rental replacement and tenant assistance policy.

The final version of the policy includes a more tailored approach to tenant relocation plans than previous iterations, considering factors such as the size of renters’ units, their length of tenancy and existing rental rates. Council also passed an amendment directing developers to take into account the physical accessibility needs of tenants.

When attempting to rezone a property, applicants on sites with more than four privately owned, purpose-built rentals units will have to submit a plan to council at an early stage in the process. Currently, there are 36 rental sites in the district with around 2,038 units, according to a staff report.

Those relocation plans must include a minimum four months’ financial assistance in line with their rents, three options for reasonable housing alternatives, coverage of move-in and move-out costs, first right of refusal to move into the new development, as well as special considerations for tenants’ pets.

Applicants must also “identify how any additional residential floor area or dwelling units (beyond the replacement of existing rental housing) will contribute to the community’s rental and/or ownership housing needs,” the approved policy reads.

Last November, council received significant backlash from the community when it rejected a proposal for rental-only zoning in the Ambleside area, potentially exposing properties to be redeveloped as strata and losing that rental stock for good.

But in February, council passed another motion that directed staff to address residents’ concerns and come up with additional protections for renters. Since then, district staff have been in contact with the Ambleside Tenants Association, which has provided feedback and input into the policy.

Councillor apologizes to renters who worried they'd lose their homes

At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Scott Snider apologized to residents who experienced stress when council previously rejected the rental-only zoning.

“There was a great deal of concern amongst many of our renters, including many of our senior citizens, who went through quite a bit of anxiety and stress over whether or not this meant they were going to be evicted and their buildings were going to come down,” he said. “I just want to reassure those people that was never ever the intent. When those policies were defeated, it was to try and make sure that we came back and addressed this appropriately and responsibly. And I think that’s exactly what this does."

Coun. Sharon Thompson said she appreciated the tenants association stepping up.

“Currently I’m not in the rental market but the stories we hear, not only about the vulnerability of losing your place but the impossibility of finding a good replacement, it just seems like an impossible situation,” she said.

Thompson added that the district should try appealing to senior government for funds to maintain existing rental stock.

“Our older rental stock is truly our affordability,” she said.

A silver lining with this issue is the creation of the Ambleside Tenants Association, said Coun. Nora Gambioli.

“It’s really about time,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them be part of some of the solutions and advocacy for renters in the future.”

At the same July 8 meeting, council rejected the latest draft version of the Ambleside local area plan, which would lead to significant zoning changes in the seaside community.

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