Some Vancouver renters get reprieve on evictions as COVID-19 restrictions take hold

VANCOUVER —
The City of Vancouver has asked developers to voluntarily and indefinitely hold off on evicting tenants if the eviction is for redevelopment, and therefore falls under the city’s tenant relocation policies.

Sarah Lindsay is one tenant who could benefit from such a delay: the Vancouver resident has rented a two-bedroom apartment in a heritage house in Mount Pleasant for 17 years. She was give an eviction notice in December 2019 so the developer that bought the house, Port Living, can redevelop her home and neighbouring buildings.

Lindsay pays under $1,000 to rent her current home, and her main income source is $1,200 a month in disability payments. She’s been searching for a new place for months, but so far hasn’t had any luck, even though she’s given up on Vancouver and has been looking in small towns on Vancouver Island.

Her eviction is now looming at the end of April. With businesses and normal activities increasingly shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19, she’s found that landlords are now not even showing units that were previously advertised as available.

“I’ve been looking for over a year and I’ve applied for a lot of places and I keep getting turned down, and I have a month left,” Lindsay said. “No one’s listing anything right now and every place that I had a viewing cancelled on me.”

To make matters worse, a small business she runs — finding and selling props to sell to film companies shooting in Vancouver — has now ground to a halt after the retail space she rented closed down because of COVID-19.

Because Lindsay’s building is being redeveloped, it falls under the City of Vancouver’s Tenant Relocation Plan — a policy intended to give tenants extra compensation and assistance to look for a new place.

But today the City of Vancouver asked developers who are in the process of evicting tenants to voluntarily put a temporary — but indefinite — hold on evictions for developments that fall under to the Tenant Relocation Plan. The city says it sent the message at noon today and has been in discussions with various developers throughout the afternoon.

In an emailed statement, PortLiving said it is “in close contact with our development partners at the City of Vancouver and will continue to follow their direction toward ensuring the social and economic health of our home and community.”

On Tuesday, Ontario’s provincial government announced it will temporarily not issue any new eviction orders due to COVID-19 and will halt the enforcement of evictions scheduled for this week.

The move followed similar eviction bans enacted in some American cities and states as the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain it increasingly take a toll on the economy. On March 16, California’s governor issued an executive order to authorize local governments to halt evictions for renters and homeowners who have been affected by COVID-19.

The B.C. government has been working on the issue, according to MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, and may have more to say tomorrow. On Wednesday afternoon, Chandra Herbert said he was bringing his recommendations to Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Those recommendations will then go to cabinet on Thursday or Friday.

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