The provincial government is closing loopholes, which the opposition says it caused by rushing through changes to strata rules.
The changes announced by Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon effectively prohibit strata corporations from passing bylaws that would exclude future children, dependants and spouses or partners of current residents living in 55-plus stratas.
Kahlon said the changes will allow young families choosing to have children to stay in units in which they would not be able to stay otherwise.
Kahlon, however, could not quantify how many people would benefit from the change. “So we don’t know exactly, but we have heard from individuals who say, ‘We are planning to have a family, I just found out the good news, but now I worry about our place,’” he said. “That is certainly unacceptable to us.”
Adult children, as well as grandchildren, will also be able to live with parents or grandparents currently living in 55-plus stratas.
Chris Churchill, president of First Service Residential, B.C.’s largest property management company, welcomed the changes. “We were pleased to see that the B.C. government clarified the Strata Property Regulation to specify that people living in stratas with 55-plus age restrictions will be able to stay in their homes even if their family structure changes,” he said. “When governments consult with industry leaders as they prepare these regulations, corrections like this could be avoided, and a tremendous amount of work by strata managers and related costs to strata councils could be avoided.”
Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate, also welcomed the changes. “This is an important change that balances the ability of seniors in age-restricted strata buildings to receive the health-care supports they need in their own homes, with the desire of many seniors to live in buildings that focus on creating a senior-friendly environment,” Mackenzie said.
The changes — which are retroactive — respond to consequences related to legislative changes made in the fall, when the NDP ended all rental-restriction bylaws while limiting strata age restriction to 55-plus. According to Kahlon, some 230 out of 34,000 stratas then turned themselves into 55-plus buildings, catching younger residents off-guard.
While the government later amended the legislation to allow live-in caregivers and people who were already lawfully residing in 55-plus buildings, it did not account for residents’ future children, dependants or spouses.
BC United’s Karin Kirkpatrick, MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, said the changes fix mistakes they created during the initial drafting of the changes back in November 2022. “The Strata Act changes were rushed through,” Kirkpatrick said. “There wasn’t an opportunity for input from those people who would be affected by it, and because it wasn’t well thought-out, there was a real issue that all these strata corporations are going to move to 55-plus.”
The changes announced Monday (May 1) do not affect the ability of stratas to convert to 55-plus, Kahlon said, adding that the senior advocate had made that request. “In the end, our policy decision was about getting more people available rentals and the policy is succeeding.”
He also implicitly defended his government against charges heard during past weeks that changes to the strata act were actually limiting rentals for people under 55 by encouraging stratas to convert to 55-plus.
Those buildings can still rent out apartments to 55-plus individuals, Kahlon said.
“If a building changes to 55-plus, they cannot stop rentals in that building to people of 55-plus.”
He said during debate that every single strata unit in this province must now be available for renting. “Some, yes, were 55-plus and some for everyone else, but they’re all available for rent.”
Kahlon also speculated that some 55-plus stratas may regret their choice to convert.
Kirkpatrick had said during debate that the strata act changes took 6,900 units off the market for people under 55.
She added that that figure was far above the 2,800 strata units that came on the market under the changes. However, that figure only counts strata units claimed under the speculation and vacancy tax exemption.
“And I can confirm for the member that the legislation where we made the change now makes all 2,800 of those units available for rent,” Kahlon said. He also pointed out that the 6,900 units are available for rent.