UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Condominium conversion regulations in British Columbia Seto, Debbie W. H.


The thesis examines the condominium conversion regulations of thirteen municipalities in the Vancouver Metropolitan area to determine how effective they are in addressing the concerns underlying conversion policies. The study begins with a review of the Canadian housing literature over the past two decades in order to identify the nature of Canadian rental housing problems, how these problems are defined and analyzed; and what policy prescriptions are offered. As part of the review of municipal conversion regulations, the legal context and the extent of legislative power for implementing conversion controls by local governments are examined. The study also examines the concept of private property rights--a fundamental philosophical issue in the policy debate over conversion regulations. Although the literature provides no consensus on the underlying causes or the appropriate policy response, it is clear that there are serious problems with Canada's urban rental housing sector. The problems include persistently low vacancy rates, declining private rental starts and the difficulty experienced by a considerable portion of low- and moderate income renters in affording private rental units. The province of British Columbia provides municipalities with broad discretionary powers to regulate conversions. In spite of the potential to devise comprehensive and innovative policy responses, existing municipal conversion regulations tend to be narrow in scope, inconsistently applied and many contain serious loopholes. A closer examination of recent conversion trends in the City of Vancouver provides evidence to show that conversions continue to take place and that Vancouver's conversion regulations are aimed primarily at ensuring compensation for displaced tenants, rather than effectively protecting the city's rental housing stock. The thesis concludes that if municipalities are to maintain a diversity of choice in housing tenure, a re-evaluation of conversion policies at both the provincial and municipal levels is warranted. Conversion policies can be improved by combining several approaches such that the strength of one compensates for the weakness of another. Further research is needed in the areas of rental housing demolitions, deconversions, fire and other phenomenon which contribute to the depletion of the rental stock. If wise and informed policy decisions are to be made, the detailed accounting of annual rental housing starts and completions must include those units lost through conversions and other activities.

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