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New Saanich policy to require developers to help displaced tenants

For all rezoning applications that result in permanent displacement of five or more tenant households, the applicant would have to offer relocation help and the right to a new suite at a discounted rate
An older apartment building on Shelbourne Street in Saanich. | DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

With an eye on aging rental stock in the municipality, Saanich, B.C., council has adopted a new tenant assistance policy to require property owners to provide help for renters being evicted during demolition or renovation of buildings.

Council unanimously approved the initiative Monday night. It’s expected to come into effect June 12 in Vancouver Island’s largest municipality.

The tenant assistance policy would apply to all rezoning applications that result in permanent displacement of five or more tenant households.

Property owners would be required to provide relocation assistance and compensation for moving expenses, rent and support for tenants needing additional help.

Tenants would also have the right of first refusal to return to the new unit and expect to pay rent 20 per cent below the market rate at the time.

More than 80 per cent of Saanich’s purpose-built rental stock, about 4,200 units, was built before 1990.

Mayor Dean Murdock said Saanich’s rental stock is reaching an age when it is likely to be replaced, and the goal is to minimize the impact on renters, particularly those living in older rentals that are often more affordable than new builds.

Murdock said the policy could be a lifeline for many renters who may otherwise not be able to continue to live in the community if their units were renovated or replaced.

“A policy like this will allow us to ensure that those folks who have been fortunate enough to find a home here can continue to have a place in our community as they contend with a rental market, and a purchasing market, that is really getting farther and farther out of reach for more and more people,” he said.

While the policy was approved unanimously, Coun. Zac de Vries suggested it could also be applied to single-detached homes, as more than 80 per cent of all renovations in the municipality involve those, rather than multi-unit complexes.

“I think it would be important, if we actually want to help tenants who are experiencing renoviction particularly as it relates to redevelopment, to consider this for the single-family market as well,” he said, noting the district often sees rezoning proposals that involve land assembly of several lots.

“Nonetheless, this adds a layer of protection that we didn’t have, so I’m definitely going to support it, but I think this is a key area that we need to look into and address.”

Rezoning applications received before the new policy comes into effect in six weeks would not be required to comply.

Saanich staff have been directed to report back with a review of the policy before the end of 2025.