A big victory for tenants’ rights in the United States fuels the campaign for tenants’ rights in British Columbia


A recent victory for San Francisco tenants bolsters organizers of a potential B.C. tenants union seeking to mobilize tenants seeking protection from unreasonable rates and terms.

In the first law of its kind in the United States, San Francisco passed a right to organize ordinance in March, requiring large corporate landlords to recognize tenant associations on their properties, attend at least four meetings tenants per year and to negotiate with tenants’ unions “in good faith.”

If landlords don’t comply with the order, tenants can apply for a rent reduction as a penalty.

The order stemmed from a dispute between Veritas Investments, the city’s largest landlord, and the Veritas Tenants Association, formed in response to ongoing rent disputes and allegations of tenant harassment.

Veritas Tenants’ Association victory in San Francisco attracts attention from tenants’ rights activists in British Columbia

Ben Ger of the Vancouver Tenants Union says he has been lobbying the government for two years for the right to represent tenants.

The first edition6:41Tenants’ union eyes collective bargaining to give them more say in housing

Ben Ger of the Vancouver Tenants Union talks to Stephen Quinn about how a big court battle for US tenants could trigger new bargaining rules for landlords and tenants here in Vancouver. 6:41

“And seeing a big win in San Francisco really gives us a lot of hope for what can be done here.”

Ger’s organization is one of the tenant groups behind the Rent Strike Bargain campaign and works with other tenant groups across the province to lobby B.C. Attorney General David Eby, to give tenants the same rights as in San Francisco.

The BCGEU Provincial Executive and Unite Here Local 40, have joined the campaign in support of tenants. (Rent Strike Bargaining Collective)

Currently, only trade unions have the right to be certified as collective bargaining entities under the Labor Relations Code.

Unions, such as the BC General Employees’ Union and Unite Here Local 40, have joined the campaign because their workers face similar challenges finding affordable housing.

Ger said Rent Strike Bargain asked Eby in May 2021 to be recognized as a collective bargaining unit with the right to represent tenants, but was unhappy with the conversation’s focus on increasing supply of affordable housing as a solution to the rental crisis.

“We went back and forth with Eby,” Ger said. “Unfortunately, he continues to hammer home this idea that the only way for us to solve the housing crisis is to give more and more money to these wealthy developers to build unaffordable housing in all of our cities.”

Nicholas Blomley, professor of geography at Simon Fraser University, agreed with the campaign’s approach. His research interests are in legal geography and he says rental housing is increasingly popular with large corporations.

“And so in that context, organizing tenants seems to be imperative, because otherwise it’s a very unfair relationship as a global company and an individual tenant.”

“I mean, it’s never been a close horizontal relationship, it’s always been an unequal relationship, but it’s become so much more unequal right now given the financialization and kind of corporatization of rental housing.

The victory of a tenants’ association in San Francisco has drawn the attention of tenants’ rights activists in British Columbia (Rent Strike Bargaining Collective)

CBC News reached out to one of BC’s largest landlords, Starlight Investments, to comment on the Rent Strike Bargain campaign, but did not receive a timely response.

Ger says the Rent Strike Bargain campaign is having success organizing and building renter groups in Metro Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna and other cities in British Columbia.

“We’re really focused on building grassroots power, building activism, helping tenants gain some control over their lives, and solving those bread and butter issues, the material issues in their lives, rent increases or eviction notices,” he said.

“And through that, we hope the province and the city will also align and understand how important this is for tenants.”


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