By Jessica Lovell
The city’s manager of inspection services was not pleased with the way a report on the issue of licensing rental housing was received in a committee meeting Monday afternoon.
“I was disappointed,” Rob Reynen said of the direction by the planning & building, engineering and environment committee. The committee decided to refer the report back to staff to include more information.
City staff began to look into the possibility of licensing rental housing last year, in response to issues related to substandard housing and disruptive tenants.
After a community engagement process that began last July, the staff report recommended against licensing rental housing. But the committee was not prepared to approve it.
“The mayor and others felt there was just some information missing from the report,” Reynen said.
But he was not clear on what the committee members thought was missing.
The report includes charts and graphs detailing the results of the community engagement process, it describes the approach that is recommended for dealing with issues related to rental housing, and it offers itemized “reasons for recommending an alternative approach to licensing.”
At the top of the list of reasons is the increased cost to tenants, as both landlords and tenants said they believed the cost of licensing would ultimately be transferred to tenants in the form of increased rents.
The report also suggests that licensing wouldn’t solve issues related to tenant behaviour, and says problems related to tenant safety could be addressed through other means.
“We didn’t really hear from the tenants about their own safety,” Reynen said, noting that the majority of those who took part in community engagement were landlords or “residents,” rather than tenants.
The same was true at Monday’s meeting, where “the majority of delegates were landlords,” he said.
Only one delegate – a resident – spoke against the report, he said.
One councillor called the report “status quo” because it did not recommend licensing rental housing, said Reynen.
But just because it recommends not to license doesn’t mean it’s status quo, he said.
“We were suggesting a number of new initiatives,” Reynen said.
These include the creation of a search warrant team, improvements to educational materials and requesting increased fines, he said.
“What we need is more tools,” he said. “I don’t believe we’re getting adequate fines and penalties through the court system.”
Increased fines need to be requested through the court system, and Reynen and his staff were hoping to have council’s endorsement in order to help make their case.
“Now that this has been referred back, we don’t have that tool,” said Reynen.
Staff will be asked to include more detail in the report, and it will then have to be approved by the planning & building, engineering and environment committee before it can be approved by council.
By Jessica Lovell