There are a number of townhouses and condo units in New Westminster that are age-restricted to 19+ only. This age discrimination is legal under BC’s Human Rights Code (and purchasing property is the only area laid out in the Human Rights Code in which it’s legal to discriminate against age).
Is there anything that a municipality in BC can do to extend the Human Rights Code to make age discrimination when purchasing property illegal?
If so, might New Westminster consider doing this to improve the housing stock available to families with children under 19?
I remember back when @MsNWimby and I were looking to upgrade from our condo on Royal Ave several years back. We weren’t really hunting hard, as we really liked our Condo and the building, but with my continued obsession with bicycles and inkling of wanting to start a garden (this is before the New Westminster Community Garden Society got launched), living on the 20th floor was starting to get stale. So we started softly looking around.
Our shopping was 95% New Westminster, and we weren’t fussed about house or townhome, as long as we had a place for bikes and a bit of soil to put plants into. Walkability to SkyTrain was a high priority, as was being away from noisy traffic. We looked at a few of the spacious townhouses in the Fraserview area. At more than one, the seller looked at us (a couple close enough to their prime reproductive years looking a multi-bedroom units) and pointed out that this was an “age restricted” complex. No-one under 19 admitted… we weren’t thinking of starting a family, were we?
I remember specifically one relatively affordable 2,400 square foot 3 bedroom 3 bath two-car-garage unit opening to the ravine park where you were allowed to have two cats and two dogs, but no people under the age of 19. I thought “bullshit”. How could that type of discrimination even be legal?
Apparently it is.
Section 123 of the Strata Property Act (a provincial legislation over which a City has no jurisdiction) makes it clear that Strata Councils can pass Bylaws that restrict the ages of people residing in a Strata Lot, as long as it does not violate the Human Rights Code.
Section 9 of the BC Human Rights Code says you cannot discriminate against a person attempting to purchase a property on account of their race, colour, religion, or sexual orientation, but does not restrict discrimination based on a age.
Section 10 of the same Act deals with tenancy, saying you cannot refuse to rent to someone for the same reasons, but adds age and “family status” to the list of discriminatory factors.
So you cannot use a persons youth or a family’s children as a reason to refuse renting an apartment, but you can use those reasons to refuse to allow them to live in an apartment they own. Government is stupid.
There is a provision in the Act for 55+ “seniors housing”, but the 19+ part is not really spelled out anywhere in the Act, except that “age” in the act is defined to mean an age of 19 years or more – if you are under 19, you are not protected from age discrimination by the Act.
Of course, the Human Rights Code is, ultimately, superseded by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so I suppose some Constitutional Lawyer may be able to argue that the gaps in the Human Rights Code violate the Charter, but I have neither the black robe nor powdered wig to opine knowledgably about that.
One interesting point: the pressing need for family-sized housing is having an interesting effect on age-restricted condos. Prices for condos in age-restricted complexes are generally depressed (more than 10% in many cases), and CMHC are very reluctant to (or, according to some sources, completely refuse to) provide Mortgage Insurance to complexes with age restrictions.
Is there anything that a Municipality can do? Not directly. We could work through the LMLGA and UBCM to pass resolutions asking the provincial government to change the rules, but I am not sure there would be much political appetite in senior governments (or in local government, for that matter) to poke that hornet’s nest.
I would love to hear from people defending the 19+ restrictions – are they really a good thing for a neighbourhood, or for a community?