'No kids allowed' strata bylaws a challenge for parents in need of housing
Published Monday, January 22, 2018 4:14PM PST
Last Updated Monday, January 22, 2018 9:10PM PST
Many families find it difficult to find affordable housing in Metro Vancouver, and sometimes the cost isn't the only barrier.
British Columbia permits stratas to pass policies effectively banning children from their buildings, a trend that is on the way out in other parts of the country.
With a girl and boy who will one day need their own rooms, Tracey Schaeffer and her husband started looking for more space. The couple was looking for a three-bedroom home in New Westminster, but their search led to an unexpected frustration.
"I'd get these listings from the realtor and I'd read, 'Oh, three bedrooms, 1,900 square feet, access to a backyard,'" Schaeffer recalled in an interview with CTV News.
"Then in tiny little letters at the bottom it says '19+.'"
She said she was shocked to learn that restrictions excluding children are legal under B.C.'s Strata Property Act.
"I actually have a hard time believing that in this day and age they can exclude a class of human beings from a complex. It's crazy," she said.
But the rules aren't considered discriminatory under the province's Human Rights Code.
Strata lawyer Paul Mendes said the only age restrictions that were allowed in condos prior to 2009 were for those 55 and older, but the government amended its human rights code nine years ago to allow age restrictions if included in other enactments.
He expects the government to pay closer attention to the policy again as the province's housing crisis grows.
"Certainly the government must be very concerned about it or should be very concerned about it because we are very concerned as a society now about affordability," he said.
The Condominium Homeowners Association of B.C. says buildings with 19-plus age restrictions represent only a small segment of housing, and therefore have little impact on the market.
"Of the over 30,000 strata corps in B.C., there are very few with age restrictions of 19+ as they are less practical to enforce and create a restriction that makes it complicated for owners and occupants who are planning families," the CHOA said.
Another province has recently taken steps to eliminate age restrictions.
Updates to Alberta's Human Rights Code took effect this year. Seniors housing is protected under the amendments, but all other adult-only buildings have been given 15 years to transition.
No new buildings will be able to enact age-based bylaws.
"We recognize the national trend that restrictions by age can affect communities where there is a critical shortage of housing," Hugh Willis of the Canadian Condominium Institute's North Alberta chapter said in the amendment act.
In a statement to CTV, the B.C. housing ministry said it would be watching what happens east of the provincial border.
"We are interested in learning about the changes Alberta has made, but are not actively considering changes to current legislation relating to age restrictions at this time," a spokesperson said.
"Our top priority is to make life more affordable for British Columbians and we have taken meaningful actions to address problems for renters and buyers in B.C."
Schaeffer's search eventually paid off in another city, but she said her family feels lucky to have been able to find a space that suits their needs.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber