British Columbia

7 roommates forced out of 7-bedroom house because they're not related

University of Victoria student Emma Edmonds never expected she’d have to speak before Saanich council. But after Edmonds and her six roommates were evicted due to a Saanich bylaw which limits the number of unrelated people living in a house to four individuals, she decided she had to do something.

Saanich councillor Zac de Vries says bylaw is 'holding back the housing stock'

Emma Edmonds says this house in Saanich, located north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, had plenty of space for all the tenants and that they each had their own bedroom. (Emma Edmonds)

University of Victoria student Emma Edmonds never expected she'd have to speak before the District of Saanich council.

But after Edmonds and her six roommates were told they were being evicted due to a Saanich bylaw which limits the number of unrelated people living in a house to four individuals, she decided she had to do something.

Dressed in a black blazer, the soon-to-be-evicted 21-year-old made her case to council earlier this week saying the bylaw needs to be updated.

"The whole process ... has been a pretty awful experience," said Edmonds, who's studying political science and living on southern Vancouver Island.

"I just felt that even if we couldn't save our own house it's really important that we make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else because what's happening to us ... is legal and that's the problem." 

Edmonds, top left, says half of the women have found housing while the rest continue to search for a new place to rent. (Emma Edmonds)

Edmonds told CBC's On the Island host Gregor Craigie that the house she's being evicted from has seven bedrooms and plenty of space for the tenants. 

She adds that when they moved in at the beginning of September, they were never told about the bylaw. But on December 5, 2018, the women were informed they needed to be out by the end of January.

Edmonds says half of the women have found new places to rent while the rest are still searching in a district with a rental vacancy rate of 1.6 per cent, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 

And Edmonds' pitch piqued the interest of council.

Councillor Zac de Vries, who recently graduated from the University of Victoria, is preparing to present an amendment to the bylaw.

"This is a blanket policy that is too constrictive," said de Vries. "It's not really respective of the vast difference in housing sizes."

He believes the maximum number of unrelated people living in one house should be scaled to the number of legal bedrooms.

And while he notes the bylaw is a big issue for students trying to secure affordable housing in a difficult market, he says it also applies to other renters in the community.

"It's holding back the housing stock," said de Vries.

He says a district bylaw should not discriminate against people simply because they are unrelated.

You can listen to the entire interview below;

On the Island host Gregor Craigie speaks with University of Victoria student Emma Edmonds and Saanich councillor Zac de Vries about a bylaw that limits the number of unrelated people living in a house to four individuals. 6:52

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