Kalina Malowany and her husband were thrilled to think they could finally have a baby in the condo they have lived in for the last five years.
The building they bought into, located in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, previously required that all residents be 19 years or older, meaning kids were out of the question.
Then, last fall, the provincial government made amendments to the Strata Property Act, prohibiting strata corporations from imposing age-restriction bylaws except for a 55-plus restriction, which is not the case in the couple’s building.
But it soon could be.
After some excitement about possibly expanding their family, Malowany, 33 and her husband Artem Bylinskii, 32, found out building residents will be voting on April 20 to impose a bylaw requiring at least one resident of each unit be 55 or older.
Under the Strata Act, 55-and-over age restrictions are allowed, and hundreds of stratas in British Columbia have already passed those age limits. The government had said the restriction preserves and promotes seniors’ housing, but the couple argues the exemption is a “loophole” that creates barriers for young people and those wanting to start families.
“Frustrating is a bit of an understatement. It’s maybe one of the first times in Vancouver where I actually feel upset,” Malowany told CBC News.
If the bylaw passes at Malowany’s building, existing residents can stay despite their age, but they cannot bring in new residents under 55.
“Ultimately, this will never be a place that we’re able to call home,” Malowany said.
Restrictions and loopholes
Sector stakeholders estimate “a few hundred” strata corporations have implemented 55-and-over age limits out of about 34,000 strata corporations in B.C. since amendments were made in the fall, according to the Ministry of Housing.
The province made changes to the Strata Act last November, including limiting renting restrictions, to open up rental opportunities as the province continues to face a housing crisis.
But it appears permitting the 55-and-over age limit has had unintended consequences.
‘A rift in our community’
Malowany and Bylinskii have another hurdle to clear if they want to start a family in their home.
They are only permitted to have two people living in their suite and hoped that if more young people moved into the building, they could vote to change it.
But if the age limit is implemented, all hope of raising children in their current condo will be dashed. Single parents wouldn’t be able to have a child in the building either.
Malowany is also worried about the greater trend of young people being squeezed out of housing options.
If the bylaw passes, Malowany and Bylinskii say they will leave the building and potentially even Vancouver if they can’t find affordable housing in the city.
“This place … was frankly the cheapest you could get in Vancouver at the time, and I don’t think you could buy an equivalent today,” Malowany said.
The couple could also have trouble selling or renting their condo because the bylaw will limit who can live there.
Gov’t will make regulatory amendments: minister
The couple wants the government to remove the age restriction exemption, and Malowany has written a letter to Premier David Eby saying the proposed bylaw is “creating a rift in our community.”
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said the government plans to change the act to address the unintended consequences of the earlier update. He said anyone planning on having a child after being grandfathered in under the age limit would be protected.
“It’s actually a heartbreaking story when someone is actually planning to have a family … this should be an exciting time,” he said.
“To have the strata make this type of decision and really put families out is not a very good one.”
Kahlon said he was not able to give an exact timeline as to when the changes will be made but hoped they would come “very soon.”
If a strata corporation wants to have a 55-and-older age restriction, 75 per cent of residents attending a general meeting need to vote for it.
Malowany, basing her estimate on past strata meetings, says about 50 residents of the building, which has over 90 units, will likely show up on April 20.
“Most of them are over 55 plus. And if that situation prevails, as it has in previous years, this would totally get passed,” she said.
Bruce Rae, 55, who has lived in the building since he was 30 years old, says “everyone, regardless of age, deserves to have a place to live,” but that he prefers not having children in the building, citing noise.
“I would be more interested in making sure that whatever the strata is doing to limit children can be done.”
Other residents have voiced their opinions about the issue on the building’s bulletin board. One man said it’d be “unfair” and “selfish” to prevent young people from living there.
Tom Agnew, the building’s strata manager at Wynford Group property management company, told CBC News this conflict is between residents, not the company, and refused to comment further.