“Vacancy control” is a policy that would stop landlords from being able to increase the rent as much as they want when a tenant leaves or is forced out of their rental housing.

The DTES SRO Collaborative has been working to vacancy control into privately-owned Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs) in the City of Vancouver. There are 100 SRO buildings, home to 4,000 low-income tenants, largely concentrated in the Downtown Eastside and Granville South areas.

Scroll through the timeline of our campaign activities from 2019 to the present:

Fall 2019

Campaign Begins

The SRO Collaborative began our campaign for SRO vacancy control by advocating for a municipal approach through the City of Vancouver, leading to unanimous approval of the motion “Slowing the loss of the last low income SROs in Vancouver”, which a) requested that the mayor ask the province to implement vacancy control for SROs, and b) asked city staff to look into the feasibility of developing a municipal model.

December 2019

Motion Passed Unanimously

The motion was passed unanimously by Vancouver City Council. The Mayor of Vancouver wrote to then Provincial Housing Minister Selina Robinson.

January 2020

Province Declines to Act

Robinson replied that the Province would decline to take action.

February 2020

Court Upholds Anti-Renoviction Bylaw

The BC Supreme Court upheld the City of New Westminster’s “anti-renoviction” bylaw, dismissing landlord arguments that tenant protections are ultra vires for municipalities.

October 2020

A Municipal Model for Vacancy Control

The SRO-C organized tenants and community partners to support a motion for city staff to explore a municipal model for vacancy control, which was passed unanimously by Council.

April 2021

Court Decision Upheld

The BC Supreme Court decision on New West’s “anti-renoviction” bylaw was upheld by the BC Court of Appeals on April 30. These legal developments played a part in the City of Vancouver growing more confident about developing a municipal approach to vacancy control, even without formal help from the provincial government.


Developing the Model

The SRO-C worked closely with the City to support development of a municipal vacancy control model that was tailored toward the specific needs of low-income tenants. The model that was developed was fundamentally different than the Residential Tenancy Branch approach because it was proactive and did not put the onus on low-income, vulnerable tenants to make formal complaints.

Winter 2021

Vacancy Control Takes Effect

City Council approved the model on November 17, funded SRO vacancy control through the city budget on December 7, and finalized necessary bylaw amendments on December 8, at which point the vacancy control policy was in force and effect.

January 2022

Monitoring Rent Rolls

Following formal approval of vacancy control, the SRO-C began working with the City, tenants, landlords, and other community partners to facilitate implementation of the policy. As part of the Vacancy Control policy, landlords were required to submit rent data in early 2022. SRO-C conducted rent surveys with SRO tenants and provided data to city staff, allowing them to test rent data that SRO-C gathered against the rent data the City gathered. The SRO-C worked to ensure that when a potential rent discrepancy was reported, any investigation would consist of building-wide spot checks. This was important in order to protect tenants’ whistleblower status. 

January 2022

Landlords File for Judicial Review

Two petitioners representing SRO landlords sought a BC Supreme Court judicial review of the bylaw.

March 2022


The SRO-C presented a summary of the landlords’ arguments against vacancy control to the Right to Remain research collective. This presentation led to a fruitful discussion of the background, arguments, and legal implications of the judicial review. The SRO-C also organized a vacancy control implementation workshop for city staff and SRO tenants. Approximately 60 tenants attended. It was an engaging meeting, including with tenants asking many insightful questions. Both tenants and city staff reported that the meeting was valuable to them.

April 2022

Landlords Circumvent the Bylaw

The judicial review hearing of the SRO Vacancy Control bylaw took place from April 20 to 22 in Vancouver. SRO-C staff attended the court hearing as observers. In the meantime, the SRO-C mobilized around tenants being cleared out of one hotel in a vacancy control-motivated mass eviction that coincided with the bylaw being challenged in court. The City and Residential Tenancy Branch failed to stop this from happening due to the timing of the court case. It was too difficult for the SRO-C to do RTB work for the tenants for a variety of reasons (including fear of landlord retribution) and thus the RTB Investigator did not step in and help. We believe that approximately 400-500 low-rent rooms were lost in the neighbourhood as a result of landlords trying to get around or preempt the bylaw.

Summer 2022

A Vacancy Control Vignette

Between June and July, the Right to Remain research collective, working with the SRO-C, produced several tenant film vignettes, including one that focused on the fight for SRO Vacancy control.

June 2022

Slowing the Loss

The SRO-C helped forward a motion asking City Council to slow the loss of rooms caused by vacancy control-related evictions and fires, including by lobbying the province for an eviction freeze. The motion passed, but unfortunately city staff were not able to report back with actions before the municipal election was held later that year in October.

August 2022

Court Quashes Bylaw, City Appeals

On August 3, the BC Supreme Court issued its ruling quashing the SRO Vacancy Control bylaw and ordering the rent rolls to be destroyed. At the end of the month, the City filed its notices of Appeal with the BC Court of Appeal.

November 2022

Strategizing the Appeal

In late November, the City filed its factum with the BC Court of Appeal. The SRO-C and our legal council held a strategy meeting with around 20 SRO tenants to discuss the types of information and arguments they thought would be important to include in our affidavit and other intervenor documents. The SRO-C worked with our legal counsel to draft a 25-page affidavit by Wendy Pedersen (the SRO-C’s Executive Director), which outlined the history of local democratic initiatives in the DTES pushing for SRO vacancy control over the past several decades.

December 2022

SRO-C Applies to Intervene

The SRO applied to intervene on December 12. The Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) of BC and other members of their Legal Aid Coalition, likewise, submitted their affidavits and application to intervene. Landlord BC submitted an application on the side of the landlords, demonstrating the importance of this increasingly high profile legal case.

Spring 2023

All Intervenors Approved

A hearing was held on January 12 to assess these applications. The judge accepted the applications of all intervening parties. Intervenor factums were submitted by February 15 and the two landlords filed their responses on March 8. The City of Vancouver was (as of April) drafting a response. A court hearing is scheduled for November 7, 2023.

Relevant Info

SRO Vacancy Control Motion
City of Vancouver, Council Member Motion, Slowing the loss of the last low income SROs in Vancouver, Councillor Jean Swanson, December 10 2019:

Judicial Review of New Westminster’s “Anti-Renoviction” Bylaw
1193652 B.C. Ltd. v New Westminster (City), 2020 BCSC 163 (CanLII):

Municipal Model for Vacancy Control
City of Vancouver, Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities, SRO Revitalization Progress Report Update and 2019 Low Income Housing Survey, October 7 2020:

Appeal of “Anti-Renoviction” Bylaw Dismissed
1193652 B.C. Ltd. v. New Westminster (City), 2021 BCCA 176 (CanLII):

Recommendation to Implement SRO Vacancy Control
City of Vancouver, Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities, Vacancy Control Regulations in Single Room Accommodation (SRA) Designated Properties, November 17 2021:

Vacancy Control Policy Enacted
City of Vancouver, Vacancy Control for SRA-Designated Properties, December 8 2021:

Judicial Review of Vacancy Control
0733603 B.C. Ltd v City of Vancouver, 2022 BCSC 1302 (CanLII):

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