British Columbia has the highest rate of evictions and foreclosure in the country, according to Statistics Canada. Weak tenant protection laws have allowed exploitative tactics to flourish, with developers and landlords using loopholes and intimidation to push tenants out and increase rents. This disproportionately affects lower-income workers and recent immigrants who are often unaware of their rights and the housing situation at large. BC ACORN has a long history of organizing in low- and moderate-income neighbourhoods, helping tenants access their rights while building empowerment in the process. Banking on their success in New Westminster and Burnaby B.C.—where they succeeded in promoting the development of municipal housing policies to tackle tenant displacement, the loss of affordable rentals and poor housing—BC ACORN wants to expand tenant organizing into the major Vancouver suburb of Surrey, where a significant immigration-background population faces severe housing issues such as overcrowding and buildings in disrepair.
The Centre has awarded $47,000 in support of the BC ACORN Tenants Activate Housing Policy Project that will build on these existing tenant-protection policies. BC ACORN will reach out to the most vulnerable tenants via door-to-door canvassing and phone calls. They will be invited to attend information sessions on municipal housing policy, and then invited to join a newly formed tenant working group. This working group will then develop policy recommendations to strengthen tenants’ rights in Surrey. This initiative will directly affect 350 tenants while reaching roughly 3,000 in the city of 571,000.