By Doug Hallett
The controversial issue of whether the city should license rental housing is going right back to the committee that balked at a city staff report that recommended against licensing.
The planning & building, engineering and environment committee recommended to council that the issue go back to staff because the report was “incomplete.” The committee wanted another, more comprehensive report on the issue from staff.
The committee’s recommendation didn’t sit well with council Monday, but debate about what to do about it went around in circles.
“I think we are going down a bunny hole and we don’t need to,” Mayor Karen Farbridge remarked at one point.
In the end, Farbridge welcomed Coun. Gloria Kovach’s proposal that the issue be sent directly back to the committee for a decision, instead of asking staff to do another report.
Kovach said she didn’t want staff spending a lot more time writing a new report containing additional data supporting staff’s recommendation not to licence rental housing.
Her proposal was approved on a 10-3 vote.
Although Coun. Karl Wettstein voted for Kovach’s referral motion, he said he has been hearing that some constituents are not happy with city taxpayers having to pay more enforcement costs to control problems associated with shared rental housing.
“The taxpayer feedback I am getting is we don’t want to pick up more enforcement costs,” he said.
The staff report that went to committee earlier this month recommends continued enforcement of noise, nuisance-party and other bylaws, instead of a licensing program.
It also proposed “several enhanced enforcement activities, such as pursuing search warrants to access properties suspected of non-compliance, cross-training inspectors to enforce building and zoning regulations, and increasing fines.”
As part of this approach, council might also be asked to consider adding one zoning enforcement officer as part of next year’s budget, the report says.
The staff report says licensing could improve the city’s ability to regulate rental housing by increasing access for inspection purposes and by requiring property owners to provide contact and property information.
However, the cost of administering a licensing program would likely be passed on to tenants, and licensing wouldn’t necessarily address the concerns of people living in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of rental housing, the report says.