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Vancouver renter’s office gets green light from council, set to open in 2021

A study says the average cost of renting a place to live in Hamilton is rising dramatically.
A study says the average cost of renting a place to live in Hamilton is rising dramatically. AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

Renters in Vancouver will soon have a one-stop shop to find supports, advocacy and educational resources.

City council on Wednesday approved a city council report calling for the establishment of a renter’s office, along with an advocacy and services team, a services funding program and more training for tenant relocation specialists.

The so-called “Renter Centre” is set to be up and running by 2021.

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Vancouver council considers new law that would better protect tenants
Vancouver council considers new law that would better protect tenants

“This sends a strong message to renters that we’ve got their backs,” Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said after the approval.

“By equipping people with knowledge and strengthening existing advocacy and support services, we are helping renters defend their rights and reducing the number of people who may find themselves at risk of becoming homeless.”

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The approval comes just a day after city council approved new protections for renters facing displacement or “demovictions,” including increased compensation for tenants who have lived in their units for over a year.

It also fulfills a central campaign promise from Stewart, who ran on the creation of a renter’s office during the October municipal election.

But it was Coun. Pete Fry who introduced the motion last November that led to the staff report, which was first presented to council on Tuesday.

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The renter centre will likely be located within a 5,500-square-foot facility in the 900-block of Howe Street, which is owned by the city.

Staff has recommended the central downtown facility as an ideal location for the office.

Council approved a two-year lease in January to the current tenant, the Public Legal Education Society, which would give it time to review partnering with the centre while staff explore further partnerships.

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The centre would include partnerships with other services provided by the city, province and Residential Tenancy Branch along with non-profit advocacy groups.

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By providing a central physical location for renters to reach those services, the city says low-income renters, tenants with disabilities, and renters who don’t have a phone or internet will be able to access resources they’d otherwise not be able to.

The advocacy and services team, meanwhile, would be spread out across City Hall to ensure every city department is staffed with people tasked with prioritizing renters in policies and decisions.

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Staff estimate the total cost of all four initiatives to be just over $5.6 million through 2021. Over $160,000 has already been approved for funding programs covered by part of the recommendations.

The renter centre itself is estimated to cost $1.46 million over the next two and a half years. That figure does not include costs for staffing the centre.