Victoria families being reno-victed
Residents of an affordable family housing complex were surprised by a building-wide eviction notice April 24, despite assurances from the owner that renovations wouldn't uproot them.
"I'm in a little bit of a panic," said Hope Yayaheekoot, who lives in one of 64 units at Quadra Villa, 2835 Fifth St., with her daughter and her cat. She pays $682 per month for her two-bedroom townhouse unit and is on a disability pension.
"I know that I can't afford rent anywhere else," she said.
Back in October the property owner, Residences at Quadra Villa Limited Partnership, told tenants that renovations would be phased allowing people to continue living in place.
"There was a miscommunication," said David Fullbrook, with LEAGUE Assets Corps, one of the developers involved.
The building has severely deteriorated and LEAGUE determined construction can't be undertaken with tenants on site.
The eviction notice spells out a timeframe of two months for families to move out – the minimum required under the Residential Tenancy Act.
"To be honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about that," Fullbrook said. "The decision was made that the longer this process goes on, the more painful it is. To tell people that in six months they are going to lose their home is, in my view, six months of stress that people don't need to go through."
A day after hearing the news, resident Sarah Wilson sat on her second-story balcony watching a group of kids playing ball in the courtyard.
"I feel there's a sense of community here," she said. "For the families this is going to be particularly affecting, because right now, it's one of those communities where … you can still put your kids out to play with other kids. Everyone watches everyone else's kids."
Some people have rented in the complex for more than 20 years, said Wilson, who leases a three-bedroom suite for $1,000.
The building is run-down, she admitted, but she wishes she'd had more time to prepare.
Yayaheekoot, meanwhile, is hoping to appeal to the Residential Tenancy Branch.
"I've been on the B.C. Housing list (for subsidized housing) for about three years now, and they're still telling me that there are no places available," she said.
Rob Hunter, president of Devon Properties, has been hired to help the tenants find new apartments. As of Friday, he had found housing for two families.
Eighteen of the units are also vacant or rented to students with leases expiring May 1.
"We're comfortable that we'll help quite a few people," Hunter said.
April is the best time to find an apartment because all the students are moving out, he explained, adding there are 200 units vacant within Devon's apartment holdings alone.
Relocating some tenants with the lowest income will be a challenge, but Devon Properties is working with B.C. Housing, he said.
City council determined the effort didn't go far enough.
Thursday night, council passed a motion to urge the owner to reconsider the eviction.
"I just think there's a more humane and ethical way to deal with it," said Coun. Ben Isitt, who put forward the motion as liaison for the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood.
Fullbrook, however, sees his renovation as the only way to rejuvenate a stock of long-neglected rental housing.
The previous owners of the building, who sold in July 2011, kept rents low by not investing in the property. The problem, said Fullbrook, is it's not sustainable.
"In our view, affordable housing isn't dangerous … Our intent is to try to mitigate the impact as much as we can, but at the same time recognize that there's nothing I can say or do that's going to undo what's really happened at that property for the last 50 years."
As part of its commitments, LEAGUE has has agreed to provide a $20,000 donation to the Greater Victoria Housing Society.