With an aging rental housing stock, Saanich is looking at years of retrofits, renovations, and maybe even replacements that could increase the likelihood of development-related displacements.
According to the District of Saanich, 30 per cent of people rent in the municipality. Of the district’s purpose-built rentals, which were found to be the most affordable, more than 80 per cent were built in or before 1990.
Saanich Mayor Dean Murdock says the upgrades buildings need will likely displace many tenants.
“Much of that housing stock is reaching the point of replacement. It’s timely to have a policy to make sure these folks are taken after,” said Murdock.
“It’s not enough to just say we’re looking to add to the rental housing stock. In the short term, the people living here need a place to stay.”
On Monday night, Saanich staff are presenting a policy to council which would mandate protection, beyond provincial requirements, for renters displaced by development.
Under the proposed plan, developers would have to provide the following:
- A relocation coordinator
- Cover tenants moving costs
- Offer rent compensation
- Give tenants the right of first refusal of their renovated unit
- Offer tenants a comparable unit 20 per cent below current market rents
“That 20 per cent below market rate is great, but we do worry that it does little to account for the unaffordability in the rental market especially considering that by the time rezoning is complete on a building, and tenants are receiving their first offers, some tenants will see their rent double within that time,” said Antonia Mah, a tenant advocate with Together Against Poverty Society in Victoria.
The policy being pitched by Saanich’s planning department is similar to the one already in place in Victoria. Tenancy advocates say while it’s a step in the right direction, tenants will still lose.
“We have to be careful when we’re putting in new measures that don’t give the right of first refusal at the same rent rate. When we’re not compensating tenants for what they stand to lose with rezoning,” said Mah.
Saanich council will vote on the policy Monday night. Staff have recommended that it come into effect in June 2023.