Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative celebrates new legislation that protects low-income tenants

The Downtown Eastside Single Room Occupancy (DTES SRO) Collaborative says it’s delighted by provincial legislation that protects low-income tenants from being unhoused.

In a release Wednesday, the group celebrates the passing of a new bill — the Municipalities Enabling and Validating Amendment Act.

“This decisive action by the province immediately restores key protections for up to 3,600 of the region’s lowest-income tenants, including pensioners,” it said.

The collaborative says the purpose of the bill is to restore a Vancouver bylaw that was enacted in 2021 but was tied up in court. Now that it is enforced, the SRO vacancy control bylaw restricts how much rent can be raised between tenancies in SROs.

The bylaw also imposes strong penalties on landlords who do not comply, allowing the City to proactively enforce the bylaw without tenants having to report landlords, allowing for whistleblower protections for tenants who come forward and report violations, and removing the economic incentive to evict the lowest income tenants.

“Meaning more people will be able to keep their homes,” the SRO Collaborative said. “This is a historic moment for the DTES neighbourhood. The SRO Collaborative started working on this issue in 2015, and some of the tenants have been working on it even longer.”

Richard Schwab, the president of the collaborative and a long-term tenant of the Arlington Hotel says in 2007 the group realized there was a direct connection between the loss of SRO rentals and homelessness.

“At the SRO Collaborative we believe that homes in the DTES can be community-friendly places to live where we can get the services we need, work together on projects in our hotels and work towards our big goal of regaining our agency to govern our space,” he said.

The SRO Collaborative’s Executive Director, Wendy Pedersen says housing, homelessness and being forced into encampments are a huge problem in our community.

“SRO vacancy control is the crucial first step to prevent more people from slipping into the life-altering chaos that people experience when they lose their homes,” she said.

Pedersen says she’s encouraged by the new bylaw change but acknowledges that there is still “lots of work to be done.”

“Together, we can make meaningful change and we look forward to working together with you and our community, to make the Downtown Eastside a better place for all,” she said.

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