NEW measures aiming to prevent rising rents in private Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels were approved by Vancouver City Council on Wednesday, subject to approval of the associated implementation costs in the 2022 Operating Budget.
Often the last resort before homelessness, SRO hotels provide the most affordable type of accommodation for people with low incomes. Investors purchasing SRO buildings and significantly increasing rents between tenancies after completing minor renovations is one of the drivers of housing instability for the City’s lowest-income residents.
The new Vacancy Control Regulations – created in response to Council direction – limits rent increases between tenancies with the goals of:
- Slowing speculative investment and rapidly rising rents in SRO buildings
- Preventing tenant displacement
“Speculation and rising rents in SROs are pushing our neighbours out onto the street and Council is taking action to fight back,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “While these new rules will help stabilize rents for our lowest income neighbours, there’s more to do. That’s why I continue to work with Federal and Provincial Housing Ministers [Ahmed] Hussen and [David] Eby on Vancouver’s bold plan to transform this critical housing into safer and more supportive places to call home.”
Staff engaged with various groups including tenants, owners and the Province in the development of the policy. It has two key parts:
- Restricting the allowable rent increase between tenancies, specifically:
- For rooms that rent for more than $500, rent can now only increase at the rate of inflation (~2%)
- For rooms that rent for less than $500, rent can now only increase by the rate of inflation (~2%) plus 5% (~7% total)
- For rooms that rent for less than $375 a month (the current shelter component of income assistance), rent can be increased up to $375
- Allowing the potential for additional rent relaxation to support critical capital investments and extraordinary operating costs:
- This will allow owners of SRO buildings (many which are older and in need of upgrading) to apply to the City for a rent relaxation between tenancies after securing approval from the Residential Tenancy Branch to increase rents on the tenanted rooms in the building.
The City said that Vacancy Control on its own is not a solution to all the issues associated with SROs. This new policy offers a stopgap, protective measure while the City continues to work with senior levels of government towards an ultimate goal of replacing all SROs with self-contained social housing. The current policy is also only targeted to SROs – vacancy control in the broader renter stock is not being recommended as it would discourage investment in purpose-built rental.
SRO owners will be required to submit rent rolls on an annual basis by January 31 of every year as part of their business licence so that the City can monitor and enforce the new regulations. Staff could also request specified additional documents at any time. The associated by-laws will come into effect immediately after 2022 Budget approval.
Click here to view the report that staff presented to Council.