Tag Archives: housing

Terrace: Regulating Housing Dignity Is Far Easier Than You’d Think

How to Research a Slumlord!
How to Research a Slumlord!

In this era of hyper neoliberalism, we are so used to tax-cutting governments chopping regulations off the books to allow the Blessed Free Market to guide human existence.

This caveat emptor mentality, however, means lots of vulnerable, marginalized and economically precarious people are hung out to dry.

In BC, the neoLiberal government has spent a dozen years stacking the deck in favour of landlords and undermining supports for tenants.

Add in inadequate welfare rates and disability pension rates, and a minimum wage far below the living wage and you get hundreds of thousands of people in the province suffering from sometimes grossly inadequate housing.

But wouldn’t it be nice if some city decided that things like building codes shouldn’t just ensure things like plumbing and electrical standards are achieved in constructing buildings.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a city passed by-laws that would ensure that renters wouldn’t be victimized by their economic precariousness and a slum lords’ desire to make a buck from tenants living with mould, vermin, and other critical elements that are required for people to live in dignity.

You’d think, in this neoliberal era of getting the government out of EVERYthing, that it would be a herculean task for a city to enforce basic standards for living with dignity.

But it turns out, it’s really quite simple. Terrace, not the dehumanizing bustling Gotham of Vancouver, has decided to do just that.

High-fives all around Terrace! You are lighting the way. And any municipality or regional district that doesn’t follow should fear the righteous wrath of newly empowered citizens who can see how incredibly easy it actually is to ensure vulnerable people are one step closer to living with dignity.

After all, the gross juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in the gentrifying downtown east side of Vancouver is already making people feel uncomfortable, to say the least. Now that we see that Terrace has embraced solutions, it’s time for the rest of us to follow that leader!

City of Terrace gets power to fine landlords

By Josh Massey – Terrace Standard
Published: July 02, 2013 7:00 AM

The City of Terrace has taken on the authority to check on the living conditions of rented dwellings without first informing the landlord and to punish with fines.

“We want to ensure that nobody’s in mould, in the cold, without lights,” councillor Bruce Bidgood said as city council formally adopted its Standards of Maintenance for Residential Rental Premises bylaw June 24.

“In February a person shouldn’t have to wait weeks to get heat.”

The bylaw contains provisions regarding light, heat, refrigeration, ventilation, water supply, as well as services and utilities.

Most of the provisions follow a template provided by the province, however one is uniquely tailored to Terrace, enforcing ventilation standards to reduce mould—a rule to “maintain the building envelope to prevent the accumulation of moisture in the walls or drafts through the wall system.”

Heat must be maintained at a minimum temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, and hot water in a rental unit at a minimum temperature of 45 degrees Celsius, and taps and toilets must always have running water. A second bylaw passed first, second and third readings on June 24 and will change several city ticketing rules, giving both the city bylaw officer and building inspectors the power to fine landlords for not maintaining proper living standards. The bylaw raises city fine limits from $25 to $100. In the case of maintenance standards violations, landlords can be penalized for up to $2,000, with a maximum of $100 maximum per day, per problem.

Councillor Stacey Tyers said she was excited to see the bylaw passed. “It gives tenants another avenue if the landlord is grossly ignoring the quality and conditions of the unit,” said Tyers, a poverty law advocate for Terrace and District Community Services Society.

“What is really shocking is how few cities have standard housing bylaws,” she said. While most council members supported the recommended bylaw, there was discussion over the rights of landlords to know when their buildings are being inspected.

“I’m suggesting that a simple phone call to the landlord or the landlord’s representative would avoid some confusion down the road … there should be some contact with the landlord because they have rights too,” said councillor Brian Downie.

City development services director David Block said there would be communication before a fine or strongly worded letter was issued to a landlord.

“I don’t believe the city of Terrace has ever been accused of over-applying its bylaws. It won’t become a witch hunt for landlords,” Bidgood added in an interview later.

There are many aspects of housing maintenance that are not covered by the new bylaw.

Other complaints, like major structural problems, are regulated according to the city’s building bylaw.

The city does not have the power to force a building owner to fix a structural problem, it can only restrict habitation.

During discussion of the new bylaw, Tyers noted that having a rental dispute heard by the provincial residential tenancy branch could take up to six weeks which another councillor, James Cordeiro, said would be too long if dealing with a malfunctioning furnace in the middle of winter.

– City of Terrace gets power to fine landlords – Terrace Standard.

The Pidgin Picket, the Housing Crisis and the State

The Role of The State in Gentrification, the Housing Crisis, and its Ability to Relieve or Maintain the Current Situation

by Rachel Goodine

Pidgin, a new fine-dining restaurant located on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, moved in to the neighbourhood on February 1 of this year, prompting plenty of controversy. It’s located right off of East Hastings on Carrall Street, directly across from the notorious Pigeon Park. Many who do not live in the neighbourhood regard Pigeon Park as a drug haven, however for many residents the park is known as a gathering spot that hosts various festivals and street markets organized by the community. Pidgin is just one of many establishments actively contributing to the current gentrification squeeze. Although many regard gentrification as a good thing, it is ultimately contributing to the life and death situation that is the housing crisis in British Columbia. The idea that money accrued from business will trickle down to the poor through tax revenue is a common one. So is the idea that British Columbia simply does not have the money to put into social housing to address the needs of residents of the neighbourhood. In reality the priorities of this government, and the resulting hegemony seen in the majority of citizens, leaves the state with plenty of cash to be funneled to corporations as well as the military, in addition to funding coercion and repression tactics that maintain the status quo.

Continue reading The Pidgin Picket, the Housing Crisis and the State

Capitalist Anti-Social Quote of the Day

“They will continue to change the rules and we will continue to find ways around them.”

via Landlords dodge new CMHC rule.

In April, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation changed some rules about how people obtain mortgages for rental income properties.

I’m sure they had their reasons, but for today, they don’t matter.

The Financial Post ran a story on Saturday explaining how one landlord with eight rental properties adjusted her game plan to deal with the new changes.

The article didn’t bother to explore why the CMHC made changes. Regulations are bad, don’t you know. The only story was the quote above.

Regulations are obstacles. They exist, but they shouldn’t. When they do exist, it is right to find ways around them.


A Voice from Haiti, Who We Are Further Victimizing

This morning I wrote about how we and the French are continuing to rip off Haiti 7 months after their earthquake.

Today I read about one woman’s experiences. She sounds so much like us. Getting to the human level during these kind of existential events, we always see that “they” are just like “us”. I wonder if we can think of our new Tamil visitors that way?

Beyond some poignant quotes below, she finishes here piece this this, which seems like a futile hope from where we stand:

We have a lot of work to do. We need to have dialogue so we can tell the international organizations what we need, what problems we have. I’d hope that the Haitian authorities and the international community can collaborate, can have good relations to develop really useful solutions for those who have problems.

Some other disturbing elements of her piece:

Young women suffer sexual aggression because they have to bathe in public.

There’s a lot of theft, you have to watch what you have very carefully. …Anyone can just frequent the camp, whether they live there or not

You have to work hard not to get sick. You see children who were normal before January 12 and now you see their color has changed, they’re skinnier, they have bumps all over their skin.

You can’t be walking around all day with all your belongings under your arms. You have to be able to say, “That is my place, that’s where my possessions are, that’s where I sleep, that’s where my home is.”

via t r u t h o u t | Amid Haitian Housing Crisis, Student Calls for Dialogue.