Close to 500 people in the Downtown Eastside staying at Single Rent Occupancy hotels converged Sunday at the second annual SRO Tenant Convention.
It’s a forum to provide not just “SRO tenant survival kits”, says project coordinator Wendy Pedersen, but also legal advocacy that focuses on tenant rights through the Residential Tenancy Branch.
“Anybody can walk in and make an application at a hearing with their landlord, so we’re teaching people how to do that, but we’re doing it in groups so tenants are safe. Often, tenants don’t want to make a complaint by themselves because then they get targeted for eviction.”
Pedersen says too many people are living with rats, bed bugs, plugged toilets, and no heat, and the convention was to provide tenants with tips on how to navigate through their legal rights against landlords.
She goes on to say tenants still face so much hardship.
“Landlords are driving them into the ground and not putting in replacement electrical systems and plumbing and elevators and they’re just slumlords.”
According to Pedersen the convention wasn’t just a forum of education, but another call to action.
“Ultimately, we need to replace the SROs with social housing, but given there’s none on the horizon, we’re in there, getting to know tenants, helping them and make this situation that they’re in a tiny bit better.”
Recently, residents of the Balmoral Hotel went a full week with the elevator out of service.