(THE NEWS/files)                                The province announced last summer it would close a loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act that allowed for renovictions.

(THE NEWS/files) The province announced last summer it would close a loophole in the Residential Tenancy Act that allowed for renovictions.

More evictions in Maple Ridge

SFU study looks at vulnerability of renters

Renters in Maple Ridge are more likely to get evicted than in other parts of the Lower Mainland.

That was the finding of pilot study done by Simon Fraser University professor and Maple Ridge resident Nicholas Blomley.

His study said there is “widespread suburban vulnerability among Metro Vancouver’s private tenants.”

Maple Ridge had the region’s highest number of recorded disputes involving evictions per renter household, with an average of 66 per 1,000. That was more than double the Metro average of 32.

SFU researchers analyzed data from the Residential Tenancy Branch from 2006-2017, and the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) from 2011-2017.

“Our preliminary findings suggest that renters are increasingly concerned at the threat of eviction, particularly associated with the challenges of making rent,” said lead researcher Blomley, a professor of geography.

“They indicate the need for more research on this important and often overlooked housing sector.”

Calls to TRAC reveal that concerns around eviction have increased significantly, rising from 19 per cent of all calls in 2010-11 to 26 per cent in 2016-17.

Blomley said these stats are likely just the “tip of the iceberg,” because not all renters know their rights, or seek to mediate disputes through the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Blomley said Maple Ridge’s high numbers are due to the nature of the renters.

“A larger proportion of them are presumably in vulnerable positions,” he said. “This is the working poor. This is the rental cost/income gap, which is presumably getting wider.”

Renters generally earn less.

Researchers found the median household income in 2016 of Metro Vancouver’s renters was 67 per cent of that of all households in the region.

He noted that the type of housing they are in may also be an issue. Across Metro Vancouver, 31 per cent of renters are in purpose-building housing, while in Maple Ridge that drops to 19 per cent.

An estimated 20-35 per cent are in secondary suites.

Blomley said there are implications for social policy and increasing income support.

He said there could also be legal changes required, such as the NDP’s recent pledge to change laws to stop renovictions, where landlords were able to evict tenants, do renovations, then raise rents beyond the maximum allowable increase.

He said the government may also have to examine disconnecting rental rates from the tenant, where a landlord cannot raise rent beyond the government’s limit – set at four per cent for 2018 – unless a new tenant moves into a unit.

This gives landlords an incentive to evict, he said, where if the rent was tied to the unit they could not increase it beyond the limit.

He said renovictions are not a big problem in Maple Ridge.

“The meat and potatoes of evictions is fully legal, fully sanctioned, and they are evicting people for non-payment of rent,” he said.

Renovictions were an issue in Maple Ridge last summer, with the upgrading of at least one downtown building bringing eviction notices for seniors, single mothers and other low-income tenants.

As a result, rent at Esme Manor rose from $750 to $1,300 for a one-bedroom apartment.

The province then announced it would close the loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act that allow renovictions to happen.

Data reported by CMHC for fall 2016 shows that of the 107,867 purpose built rental apartments in Metro Vancouver, the vacancy rate was 0.7 per cent – the lowest it has been in the past eight years.

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson believes housing the homeless may cause an increase in the numbers here, because outreach workers have been working hard to get them into housing.

“A good portion of them are going to fall out [of housing], and we’ve housed over 700,” said Robson.