Better safety coming for people in supportive housing
VICTORIA - Changes to the Residential Tenancy Regulation (RTR) will provide increased safety for staff and tenants living in supportive housing.
"These changes are being made to ensure the safety of everyone living in supportive housing, staffing these sites and the community at large," said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. "Everyone deserves safe and stable housing. We are grateful to our partners who provide supportive housing in BC and will continue supporting them, as we continually improve the services that people rely on."
The Province is amending the RTR under the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) to clearly define supportive housing and exempt supportive-housing units from sections of the RTA that prohibit guest policies and wellness checks. Guest policies allow operators to manage who enters the building, and wellness checks permit staff the ability to enter a tenant's room, when needed, as a chance way to confirm their health, well-being and safety.
"Had wellness checks been completed, my son Lindsey might not have died or been left for days undiscovered in his room," said Christine Harris, an advocate for wellness checks, and whose son died of sepsis while living in supportive housing. "I strongly support this policy as a standard of care so our most vulnerable will not needlessly suffer, or will at least have dignity in their deaths."
Many supportive-housing providers rely on wellness checks and guest policies to ensure the safety of staff and tenants. However, these practices are not currently allowed under the RTA.
In its 2018 report, the Province's Rental Housing Task Force recommended that the specific needs of non-profit-housing and supportive-housing providers should be addressed in the RTA, such as the need to do wellness checks for their tenants, especially people with substance-use challenges.
To assist supportive-housing operators, government has been working with BC Housing to develop operational standards for conducting good-faith wellness checks and to implement reasonable guest policies. Supportive-housing operators will communicate these changes to their tenants, and if tenants have any concerns they can follow the complaint resolution process, which all supportive housing providers have. These changes will come into effect on Feb. 28, 2024.
The RTA establishes the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in B.C. and governs supportive housing. Tenants living in supportive housing can continue to access the Residential Tenancy Branch dispute resolution process for issues related to sections of the RTA that continue to apply to supportive housing.
In Budget 2023, government committed as much as $1.5 billion to the Belonging in BC homelessness plan, aimed at helping prevent and reduce homelessness in the province. The plan will add 3,900 new supportive-housing units and 240 complex-care spaces provincewide. Since 2017, government has delivered nearly 5,600 supportive-housing units in the province, including permanent housing for those temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Julian Daly, CEO, Our Place Society -
"These changes are very welcome and allow us, as supportive-housing providers, to manage our buildings more effectively, help keep our residents safe and enhance the general well-being of our housing sites as well as neighbourhood security. Everyone wins with these changes."
Karen Ranalletta, president, CUPE BC -
"We welcome these much-needed changes. Properly implemented wellness checks will allow our members to provide critical safety supports for residents. Supportive housing is in high demand and we want to see workers and tenants thrive whenever possible."
Del Manak, chief constable, Victoria Police Department -
"Our officers routinely attend calls for situations that these changes will help minimize. We look forward to the impact these changes will have on the safety and well-being of people living in supportive housing, and to ensuring a safe working environment for the operating staff, support services, police, first responders and others involved in supportive-housing facilities."
Jill Atkey, CEO, BC Non-Profit Housing Association -
"The changes announced today are a good first step in providing greater clarity for supportive- housing providers and residents and will help to ensure the well-being of people who live and work in hundreds of buildings across the province."
Keir MacDonald, CEO, Coast Mental Health -
"These amendments to the RTA are an important first step in acknowledging the unique needs of supportive-housing providers that assist a range of people, including those living with mental illness and substance-use disorders. By providing these new guidelines, we have the capacity to improve the safety of both residents and front-line workers. We look forward to continuing discussions with government to clarify other areas within the RTA that would assist operators providing these services."
Dan Ruimy, mayor, Maple Ridge -
"Ensuring the wellness and safety of all involved in supportive-housing environments must be the number 1 priority, which is something we can stand behind. These provincial changes are welcomed in response to valid concerns heard from operators and the community. Putting these new tools into practice will have a noticeable impact on employees as well as the residents."
In addition to these changes, the Province has made significant Residential Tenancy Branch improvements, including:
- reduced wait times for dispute resolution
- reduced wait times for service by phone (less than seven minutes)
- one business day response to emails; and
- service in more than 200 languages.
To read BC's current Residential Tenancy Regulation in the RTA, visit: www.bclaws.gov.bc.ca/civix/document/id/crbc/crbc/477_2003
To read about reduced wait times for Residential Tenancy Branch dispute resolutions, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0178-001974
To read the Belonging in BC plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BelongingStrategy.pdf
To learn more about government's new Homes for People action plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HOUS0019-000436
To learn about the steps the Province is taking to tackle the housing crisis and deliver affordable homes for British Columbians, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/housing