Nanaimo This Week: New measures to prevent renovictions

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As I work on finishing the second installment of our series on rental affordability this week, I saw an interesting announcement on March 1 from B.C. Housing Minister David Eby. 

Eby proposed legislative changes that include extending the existing rent freeze to the end of 2021, tying future rent increases to inflation (starting in 2022), and imposing new rules on landlords seeking to renovict tenants.

I reached out to Eby’s office on Wednesday to ask: “I have heard from housing advocates that while a rent increase ban is welcome, it doesn’t address the issue of rents being hiked, sometimes drastically, when a renter vacates a unit. What are your thoughts on vacancy control (do you support it or not) as a measure to deal with this?”

Vacancy control means rent increases are tied to a rental unit rather than the renter—which is something some experts I have interviewed for our rental series have said is needed in B.C.

This was the response:

Illegal renovictions are one of the drivers of the challenge you reference. Many people are forced to move out because of renovictions to allow the landlord to jack up rent on the next tenant, that’s why we’re making changes to the renoviction process,” said a ministry spokesperson, adding that the “renoviction changes establish a new process to prevent landlords from evicting tenants for minor repairs.”

Landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before issuing a notice to evict their tenant (similar to the process in Ontario) so they can renovate. 

It will be up to arbitrators to decide whether the application to end the tenancy meets the criteria outlined in the Residential Tenancy Act. They also said that landlords who are trying to end tenancies with multiple tenants in the same building will have to apply under one application.

In our upcoming story we’ll be looking further into the local rental housing crisis by digging into the history of how exactly we ended up in this situation, what it all means, and broadly, what can be done. Stay tuned!

Good news 

For a couple of years after I finished writing a book and before I started freelance reporting again, I worked part-time at a local bookstore on Commercial Street called Well Read Books. Selling mostly used books, it helped raise funds for its parent organization, Literacy Central Vancouver Island, a non-profit that does incredible work for the community.

It’s one of the few places I worked that felt like it was genuinely helping the community in tangible ways: refurbishing old computers to give out to organizations and people in need, pairing up trained volunteers to help learners experiencing challenges with literacy for free tutoring, helping kids in schools with one-on-one support, helping new residents with English practice groups, and their youth programming aimed at 15-to-30-year-olds, among other things.

My job besides helping in the store was to run a local writers group and organize in-house author readings, as well as help out with some of the publicity for the volunteer-run BookFest, a Vancouver Island children’s book festival which brings some of the biggest names in children’s literature from all over Canada to Nanaimo.

Prolific author Richard Van Camp who is Tłı̨chǫ Dene from Fort Smith, N.W.T., ran a teen session at the 2017 BookFest, and I was delighted to hear that he has now partnered with Literacy Central Vancouver Island (LCVI) and the Mid Island Metis Nation to host a creative writing and storytelling workshop series here.

Richard will serve as a mentor working with Metis, First Nations and Inuit youth and young adults to explore storytelling online.

In an announcement, LCVI’s Indigenous literacy coordinator Aimee Chalifoux says her aim has long been to help youth in Nanaimo “work through their cultural identity with poetry and spoken word.”

The program runs from March 7 to 28 and is offered online via Zoom or at LCVI. To register, contact Aimee Chalifoux by email or at 250-754-8988.

A man stands in front of a tree with crossed arms, smiling, wearing a a Dene leather vest with flowered embroidery.
Richard Van Camp has authored an incredible 24 books in 24 years and will be mentoring Nanaimo youth in the craft of storytelling. Photo submitted by Richard Van Camp

Community shout-out

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Rain Shadow is now showing at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, featuring the work of 10 artists from the Pacific Northwest including Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun’s We Fell From the Sky / Together and Apart, mixed media on birch panels. Kwulasultun writes:

This artwork tells one of the creation stories of the Snuneymuxw. Our ancestors fell from the sky onto Te’tuxwtun (Mt. Benson) and from there made their way down into Stlilup (Departure Bay). This creation story is not mutually exclusive, and in fact, in each telling it reaffirms other creation stories from other groups of Snuneymuxw and, I believe, all other peoples. When I think of who we are, intrinsic to that understanding is our connection to this place, this is our home and where we were created. Our stories, our experiences, each place, and each of us, are all parts of a much larger thing that makes us who we are; it is a coming together. This past year has been a powerful reminder for how sacred those connections are.

A tall mixed media artwork displays on a gallery wall featuring bright yellow and red round figures with mountains at the base.
Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun’s We Fell From the Sky / Together and Apart, mixed media on birch panels. Photo by Eliot White-Hill Kwulasultun

Once again, Ian Gartshore (this time accompanied by his wife Julia) has completed his coldest night of the year fundraising by walking through the night of February 20 to raise funds for those without homes. They raised $2,686, and their Rambling Amblers and Paddlers team raised about $7,900. The money goes towards the Island Crisis Care Society in Nanaimo who serve and support vulnerable families and individuals in the community.

A woman and man embrace with winter hats and scarves on next to a hedge.
Julia Roberts and Ian Gartshore estimate they walked 8 to 9 km on Feb. 20 to raise funds for the homeless. Photo by Ian Gartshore

What’s going on?

  • Friday, March 5, ongoing to March 20Nanaimo International Jazz Festival presents local tenor saxophonist Lucas Smart with Nico Rhodes on piano, Kosma Busheikin on bass and James McRae on drums for a musical exploration of jazz standards and originals. More performances all week including the Brock Meades Trio on Monday, March 8.

  • Thursday, March 4 to 6: The Hornby Island conservancy brings its fifth annual HerringFest2021 virtual. Proceeds go to fighting the herring roe fishery.

  • Saturday, March 6Join the Food Revolution! Free virtual workshop presented by Connie Kuramoto and Don Giberson to explore alternative ways of growing. 

  • Sunday, March 7Homes and Homelessness: Women’s Struggles, Resilience, a virtual event in honour of International Women’s Day hosted by Vancouver Island University Faculty Association Status of Women and Hannah Crawford. 

  • Monday, March 8: The Discourse Cowichan, in partnership with Cowichan Valley International Women’s Day, will host a virtual ceremony to mark International Women’s Day and honour essential workers. Audrey George, manager of the Ts’i’ts’uwatul’ Lelum assisted living facility in Duncan, will be the keynote speaker. Poets Délani Valin and Carla Stein will read at the event. The event will broadcast to The Discourse’s Facebook page at noon. Here is the Facebook event page

  • Monday, March 8: Self-identified women under 19 are invited to enter a Scratch Coding Contest for International Women’s Day, where participants can submit an animation, video game or another digital project that use the coding block interface by March 31 for entry into a draw.

  • Ongoing monthly: Nanaimo Community Kitchens now offers a “Cooking out of the Box” program. At each two-hour session, three to four recipes are prepared using the contents of the Good Food Box, which varies from month to month, as the foundation of a nutritious cooking session for low-income individuals. 

  • Friday and Saturday, March 12 and 13Food for Thought: Food, Farming and Climate Change virtual summit hosted by Transition Nanaimo. The free two-day event features multiple presenters on how to shape a vision for a secure and sustainable local food system and chart a path to making it a reality.

Join us 

Shout-out to those who joined our new “public newsroom” on Facebook, The Discourse Nanaimo. Ashta McIntosh and Dalia Virl submitted events to feature in this newsletter (thanks!). And Shawn Westcott suggested this important community action 😂

In your words

I received this comment via Facebook from a reader named Justin:

Good article about rental prices, this needs to be talked about more. I think people are clueless and the details you found and revealed what people need to hear. I think we’re going to have a real hard time for the next 25 years with housing. There’s reasons behind it… Honestly we were born into a society that became one of the hardest to get ahead in due to the cost of housing in our generation. It’s not like we all make $75 a hour.”

As always, your feedback is much appreciated. Drop me a note, anytime. [end]

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