Doug King (left), lawyer and executive director of TAPS, addresses the media with Doug Swait (right), a resident of 844 Johnson St. and one of the lead plaintiffs in the case against the Portland Hotel Society restricting the rights of tenants at the building managed by the non-profit housing provider. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Supreme Court rules social housing residents in B.C. deserve rights too

Tenants trying to stabilize their living situations should not face less legal rights than those paying market rates: Judge

A B.C. Supreme Court decision has ruled in favour of those living in social housing, saying they deserve the same tenant rights as anyone else.

Residents at a facility in Victoria for former campers in tent city will no longer be subject to blanket restrictions after a judge found them to be illegal.

“People who move into social housing should not have to leave their rights at the door,” said Doug King, a lawyer and executive director of Together Against Poverty (TAPS) at a press conference Wednesday.

In June 2016, the province announced it had purchased a building at 844 Johnson St., to provide 140 units of supportive housing to be managed by non-profit housing provider Portland Hotel Society (PHS).

King said promises were made to the tenants including that it would be permanent housing, that they would be given all the rights and privileges of other tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act, and that they would have input on the decision making of the management of the building.

RELATED: Reeson Park campers demand affordable housing

Doug Swait, a resident of the Vancouver Island facility and one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, said the decision recognizes the tenants as a part of the neighbourhood.

“This is a really good win for us,” he said. “It’s been a constant battle since moving in there.”

Guests were routinely blocked from visiting residents, Swait said, including children visiting family members on holidays, as well as overnight guests.

In one case, a resident was unable to access medication being delivered by a friend who did not have proper identification. The building has not been affixed with a buzzer system like most market rentals, and many residents do not have cell phones, Swait said.

“Any restriction on guest privileges must be reasonable,” King said. “Reasonable means it has to be specific to a person.”

Multiple tenants filed a complaint with the residential tenancy board, but King said Portland Hotel Society chose not to listen, taking no action, leading to the case landing in court.

“If PHS is not getting enough resources from the government to do an adequate job of running buildings like this and protecting tenants’ rights, they need to be vocal about that,” he said.

RELATED: Police keeping close eye on Johnson Street community

RELATED: Chaos starting to calm down at new facility on Johnston Street

The precedent setting decision, handed down May 18, lifts the longstanding blanket restrictions for tenants and dismisses an appeal brought by PHS.

In her ruling, Justice Sharma wrote “… the petitioner has not provided any justification of why tenants who are being given a social benefit of below market housing, in an effort to try and stabilize their living situation, ought to be given less legal rights than tenants paying market rates …”

“It’s good for everybody else around to see that these things can be done,” Swait said. “You’ve got to stand up and fight for your rights.”

King called the decision “vindication,” adding the ruling is important for residents in Victoria, but across the province as well.

“This decision sets new ground rules in social housing,” he said.

Portland Hotel Society denied a request for comment for this story.

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

 

The former Central Care Home on Johnson Street in Victoria has been converted into 140 units of long-term supportive housing for people with an assortment of needs.

Just Posted

Youth create for those less fortunate

Art auction fundraiser takes place tonight, 6-10 p.m. at the Castle on 1st.

Summer fun has just begun

Ice cream sales are expected to peak today as residents savour the longest day of the year.

115 new wildfires burning across B.C. due to 19,000 lightning strikes

More fires expected to start today, says BC Wildfire Service officials

Medicinal cannabis clinic opens in Fernie

A new cannabis clinic is open in Fernie, with plans to transition to a dispensary, come legalization

Columbia River Treaty meetings hear farmers’ plea

Ranchers say this is Canada’s last chance to restore their agricultural industry

VIDEO: B.C.’s ‘unicycle cowboy’ aspires to be rancher one day

Burklan Johnson has only ridden a horse once, but this unicyclist has big plans to become a cowboy.

Rescued Oregon family simply unprepared for adventure, RCMP say

Agencies now helping the group of four get to their destination in Alaska

Large B.C. tree dies after possible poisoning

Police and District investigate after large chestnut tree’s rapid decline

Canucks release 2018-19 season schedule

Vancouver to face Calgary Flames on Wednesday, Oct. 3, for home opener

VIDEO: Luxury Home and Design Show opens with Italian flare

Event set to run Friday to Sunday at BC Place in Vancouver

Small new charge on BC Hydro bills goes toward new crisis fund

The new fund aims to help customers who find themselves in financial emergencies

UPDATED: Crown appeals B.C. polygamous leader’s acquittal in child bride case

James Oler had been charged with taking his underage daughter to the U.S. to marry her off

Fake cops ‘arrest’ woman, steal $6,000 in latest CRA scam

Vancouver police urge people not take calls from anyone saying they’re from the Canada Revenue Agency

Study shows increase in mountain bike tourism in B.C.

Numbers are up, way up, for bike-related visits to the province

Most Read