The building you live in is going to be replaced with a new tower. What level of support can you expect, and when can you expect it?

That was the topic Monday evening as Coquitlam council mulled changes to the city’s tenant relocation program with a focus on the grey area between application and demolition.

Aware their building has a date with a wrecking ball, many tenants move out. As new tenants would be entitled to some form of compensation in line with the B.C. Residential Tenancy Act, many landlords “prefer the simplicity of not re-renting the vacated units,” according to a city staff report.

“That concerns me, especially if there’s a long period between the application and demolition,” Coun. Teri Towner responded.

Even temporary housing can be “life-changing,” Towner said, discussing newcomers to Canada and people fleeing abuse who could benefit from temporary housing.

Coun. Chris Wilson agreed, suggesting efforts should be made to reform the Residential Tenancy Act: “so that in the midst of a rental housing crisis we’re not leaving apartments vacant for six or eight months at a time.”

Currently, Coquitlam city staff are set to monitor the amount of time buildings are left partially or wholly vacant and report back to council as necessary.

Did they move or were they pushed?

Another sticky issue that sometimes arises is whether tenants chose to move out prior to a formal redevelopment application or whether they were pressured to leave, noted Coun. Brent Asmundson. While those rumours aren’t necessarily true, they should be investigated, Asmundson contended.

“I’d just like to be able to find that information, track it, see if there’s any validity to those trends,” Asmundson said.

Striking a balance

The city’s policy must strike a balance between helping displaced tenants without discouraging the redevelopment of buildings that are at the end of their useful life, explained Mayor Richard Stewart.

Despite the building boom in Coquitlam, the region is falling short of the demand for rental housing, Stewart said, noting that he struggles with the idea of introducing a policy that: “has the effect of punishing the people that we’re begging right now to build rental housing.”

Council unanimously adopted the new tenant relocation policy, which prioritizes greater communication to be sure renters are aware of their rights. Tenants are eligible for a compensation package once a full development application has been made to the city.

Money

That compensation ranges from three months of paid rent for new tenants (five years of occupancy or less) to 10 months of paid rent for a 20-year tenant. This part of the policy is unchanged from the previous rules.

Moving expenses

Tenants who live in studio or one-bedroom units are entitled to $750 in moving assistance. Residents of two-bedroom or larger units get $1,000.