Mayor's promise to Vancouver renters slammed as unrealistic, opportunistic

Critics of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart's proposal to usher in what he calls the “strongest renter protections in Canada” are slamming the move, questioning both the plan itself and the motivation for bringing it forward now.

On Tuesday, Stewart announced he wants to include renter protections in the Vancouver Plan, the same as those that were built into the Broadway Plan.

Stewart’s plan would focus on renters displaced by redevelopment. Tenants would have the first right of refusal to return to the newly developed property at the same, or lower, rent and builders would also front relocation costs.

Coun. Lisa Dominato, who is running for re-election with the newly formed ABC Vancouver party, said she didn’t see the mayor’s announcement of the proposal until the last minute.

“It caught us all by surprise," she said. "I actually don’t know how realistic that is, to be making that kind of policy application city-wide for all rental developments.”

Stewart did admit that his proposal made some builders nervous and could end up leading to developers needing more density in order to recover building costs. Something Dominato said she had also discussed.

“I’ve heard similar concerns from the building community. While we’re talking about wanting to make the city more affordable, we want to make housing more affordable -- this might layer on more costs and make it less affordable,” she said.

NPA mayoral candidate John Coupar also questioned if the idea would have the desired outcome, or make things worse.

“Usually when there’s rent controls it tends to constrict supply, rather than help supply,” he said, adding that he believed Stewart was making a last ditch effort to win votes ahead of the fall. 

“I think it’s funny, he seems to have come alive a few months before the election,” Coupar added.

The Vancouver Plan has been in the works since 2018, when Kennedy Stewart was first elected. Wednesday was the first session where council heard directly from members of the public about the proposal and more than 80 people signed up to speak.

Many speakers in the early session were against the plan - one person calling it a “D-minus at best.” Another told council it was “the shameful, rotten cherry on top of the decisions of late.”

The CEO of Landlord BC also criticized the plan, calling it a “solution searching for a problem.”

“Nobody was asking for it except anti-development neighbourhood groups and certain members of council because they saw the process as a perfect tool to be used to halt efforts to denssingle-familymily neighbourhoods, which since 2019 is exactly what it did,” David Hutniak told CTV News in an email. “So mission accomplished for those folks at the expense of the community, the economy, and renters in particular.”

The Vancouver Plan will be back before council on July 22 which will be the last opportunity for it to be passed before the summer break.