Richmond has about 2,000 secondary suites, but nowhere near that many are currently being rented out.
If they were, Richmond's affordable housing problem could be significantly reduced. That's the opinion of the Richmond Rental Connect project and the rea-
son for a series of community engagement evenings for landlords and tenants. The most recent event was a tenant town hall meeting, May 31 at the Richmond Pentecostal Church across from the Garden City Lands.
An open invitation to this free event brought in a varied group of renters.
Participants included retirees and young professionals, folks with families and new-comers to our city. They came to tell their housing stories and share ideas about how to make the rental experience better.
After a healthy light dinner supplied by the McNair secondary school's culinary arts program, participants heard from guest speakers Dena Kae Beno, the City of Richmond's affordable housing coordinator and Cynthia Chen, former city councillor and real estate specialist.
They articulated a number of challenges facing the issue of affordable housing: 1.
Housing starts in Richmond are primarily for homeowner purchase, not rental housing; 2.
Single-family houses are becoming so large, they are only affordable to the moneyed few; 3. Apartments are getting so small they can't house a family comfortably.
This is where Richmond Rental Connect comes in.
Richmond Rental Connect is an initiative of the Richmond Poverty Response Committee. The project aims to connect landlords of secondary suites with tenants seeking safe and affordable rental housing.
A successful landlord forum held in April brought out homeowners who wanted to rent out their secondary suites, but needed information, resources and supports.
Similarly, the tenants' town hall in May gave the project insight into renters' needs. A primary concern was to find housing within their income ranges.
Renters also said they didn't feel they had enough information about their rights and responsibilities and sometimes felt they were taken advantage of.
The information shared at these landlords and tenants forums is being used to inform the next steps in the process.
A website to match landlords and tenants will be launched at a celebration 6: 30 p.m. on June 20 at the Richmond Cultural Centre.
A series of information workshops to put both parties on the same footing will be held starting in the fall.
For more information on Richmond Rental Connect or to register for the website launch, email email@example.com or call 604-205-4700.
De Whalen is a longtime poverty and affordable housing activist in Richmond.