Anti poverty group urges feedback on housing regs

The deadline for public feedback on the territory's proposed new Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is looming, and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition wants to make sure that vulnerable Yukoners' voices are heard.

The deadline for public feedback on the territory’s proposed new Residential Landlord and Tenant Act is looming, and the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition wants to make sure that vulnerable Yukoners’ voices are heard.

In December, the government posed as a series of questions to gauge what the public wants to see in the finished regulations. The deadline to comment is March 11.

But the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition is worried that, without more help from the public, the concerns of vulnerable Yukoners might go unheard.

“It’s not a very friendly process for people who have low literacy skills or don’t have access to a computer. It can also take a long time to fill out, even if you’re using the library,” said Charlotte Hrenchuk, one of the coalition’s co-chairs. “We’ve been encouraging our members to make a submission or help their clients make submissions. It is possible to make a group submission as well.

“If someone comes to an agency like the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, there could be a group of women who have a discussion around each of these issues and make a joint submission, and it could be assisted by staff,” Hrenchuk said.

The public can comment by going to the government’s Community Services webpage, by contacting the government directly at residentialtenancies@gov.yk.ca or by calling 667-5944.

From the coalition’s perspective, there are a number of important questions that need answering about the regulations.

Chief among them are proposed fees for filing an official dispute resolution request and to review decisions and orders made under the new legislation.

The government says that fees – $50 for dispute resolution and $75 for decision appeals – will help dissuade Yukoners from filing frivolous requests.

“We believe there should not be any fees at all. It could be concerning for some landlords, too. Say you have some senior citizens who are renting a suite in their basement. They may be on a fairly tight budget as well, and might not be able to afford the fees,” Hrenchuk said.

There is a provision that allows the fees to be waived in certain situations, but Hrenchuk said she’s also worried about the vague wording in the proposal.

“They’re asking about the possibility of waiving the fees, but there’s the whole question about what the criteria will be and how is that going to be fair to everyone?

“The whole process could be extremely bureaucratically costly. If you look at the labour standards and human rights and medical professionals acts, when people want to file any disputes or questions with those agencies or departments, there are no fees,” she said.

The other big issue the coalition wants to see addressed involves the rules around hotel and motel stays.

Many of the territory’s social assistance clients end up living in hotels and motels through the winter, paid for by the government. Other workers who travel for work, especially outside of Whitehorse for resource extraction jobs, end up with extended stays in hotels because other accommodations aren’t available.

Hrenchuk wants to see the government clarify how long a motel or hotel stay must be before it is considered a residency agreement and brought under the new legislation.

Print copies are also available at community libraries and at the main information desk in the Government of Yukon administration building at 2071-2nd Avenue in Whitehorse. To download the feedback document, go to www.community.gov.yk.ca.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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