Apartment owner lobbying about rental control

New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert is concerned an apartment owner accused of "renovicting" its tenants is now lobbying the government to discuss the "implications" of rental control - a law the industry has proposed eliminating. That lobbying effort comes after Hollyburn Properties Ltd., which has denied those renoviction accusations, made a significant donation to Christy Clark's leadership campaign.

Hollyburn has made political donations in the past, with Elections British Columbia filings showing the company contributing $10,900 to the Liberals between 2009 and 2010. But, according to a disclosure document released by Ms. Clark's campaign on February 22, the company chipped in an almost equal amount to her bid to succeed Gordon Campbell.

Now, two months after Clark's leadership win, two government relations consultants - Michael and Carolyn Bailey - have registered to lobby her new government about rental control on behalf of the company.

Ms. Bailey said she was unable to provide further details regarding that lobbying, which will also include discussing the "implications" of the harmonized sales tax.

"We're still kind of working on it. But I know (Hollyburn) would probably be happy to tell you a little later on" about the effort.

The company, which has 44 apartment buildings in Vancouver, didn't respond to requests for comment placed on Monday and Tuesday. But Mr. Chandra Herbert said that, given Hollyburn's history, British Columbians should be concerned about what policy changes it might be looking for the government to make.

Over the past five years, the company has made headlines over accusations it has evicted tenants to renovate their suites so it can later jack up the rents for those apartments.

Under the province's Residential Tenancy Act, rent increases are capped at two percent plus the cost-of-living index. But that cap only applies to occupied suites - not ones that have been emptied.

In past media reports, Hollyburn has denied its evicting tenants just to raise rents, with general manager Allan Wasel telling The Province's Suzanne Fournier three years ago that, "Many of the buildings we have purchased in the West End are from the '50s and '60s and urgently need repairs, and those repairs are often extensive, such as new kitchens, bathrooms, replacing piping and flooring."

Nevertheless, Mr. Chandra Herbert remains suspicious of the company, whose director Paul Sander is currently a member of the British Columbia Apartment Owners and Managers Association's board of directors.

Earlier this year, the association's chief executive officer penned a letter to The Vancouver Sun stating "the current rental system in B.C. - as a direct consequence of rent controls - does not allow landlords to increase rent commensurate with the cost of required upgrade and retrofit work."

"The solution: Deregulate rents and allow the market to control them," Marg Gordon wrote.

Journalist Bob Mackin was the first to highlight the company's donation to Ms. Clark's leadership campaign.

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