Tenants Need Protection Now
Yukon Party sits idly by while condo conversions continue
WHITEHORSE– Amidst new stories of plans to convert Whitehorse rental housing into condominiums, NDP Housing Critic Kate White today called on the Yukon Government to prevent evictions and the loss of rental housing stock due to condo conversions.
“We take no issue with the construction of new condominiums,” said White.
“However, the current trend of converting existing rental housing into condominiums must stop. For many renters who cannot afford to purchase their homes or pay dramatically increased rents, condo conversions will result in evictions. It’s happened time and time again in other places with high prices and low vacancies. Yukon needn’t repeat this mistake.”
According to a March 2011 report from the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries, Yukon is one of the only jurisdictions in the country that offers no protection for tenants facing eviction due to condo conversions. In Ontario, a law protects tenants from eviction for new owner use when a rental apartment is converted into a condo. Tenants may continue to rent their apartments for as long as they choose.
Ontario also sets a Rent Increase Guideline that limits annual rent increases based on the Consumer Price Index. Landlords can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for rent increases above the guideline if their costs have increased substantially.
Some municipalities have bylaws that allow for condo conversions only when the rental vacancy rate is above a certain level, often around 3%. According to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the vacancy rate in Whitehorse has hovered around 1% since 2010.
“Condo conversions and rent increases in Yukon are basically unregulated,” said White. “Rent cannot be increased in the first year of a new tenancy and advance written notice of a rent increase must be provided, but beyond that the sky’s the limit.”
“We know many responsible landlords who implement reasonable rent increases to cover legitimate costs. However we’re hearing more and more troubling stories of rents being increased by as much as 50% by some owners trying to make a quick buck. How many more tenants will face eviction for condo conversions and skyrocketing rents before the government finally acts?”
The government’s current public review of the Landlord and Tenant Act is based on a Select Committee report from 2010. At that time, condo conversions were not a widely known problem and stories of skyrocketing rents were less common. It is clear that the rental housing situation has changed and a more comprehensive response is required.
“I encourage all Yukoners to read the Landlord and Tenant Act review document and complete the survey available on the Department of Community Services website and at community libraries throughout the territory,” said White. “Take the time to fill in the ‘Other Issues’ section of the survey and call on the Yukon Government to protect tenants from condo conversions and unreasonable rent increases.”
The Consumer Services Branch of the Department of Community Services is asking for interested members of the public to share their ideas on the Landlord and Tenant Act review by Monday, July 9, 2012.
The complete report from the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries, entitled “An Environmental Scan of Condominium Conversion Policies in Select Canadian Communities,” can be found on their website at www.socialplanningcouncil.org.