James Bay residents in panic over “renovictions”

Gazing out Roberta’s apartment in Seaview Towers in James Bay, it offers a spectacular view of the ocean beyond.

Gazing out Roberta’s apartment on the eighth floor of Seaview Towers in James Bay, it offers a spectacular view of Dallas Road and the ocean beyond.

Seventy-eight-year-old Roberta spends most of her day watching cyclists and people walking their dogs along Dallas Road, and watching the cruise ships come in and out of the harbour in the summer.

“It’s beautiful, it’s a $2-milion view,” said Roberta, who did not want to give her last name. “From where I am, I don’t see land, I only see water and the Olympic Mountains and they’re snow-capped all year round. There’s something going on all the time.”

However, Roberta is being forced out of the one-bedroom apartment on the corner of Menzies Street and Dallas Road, where she has lived for the past 32 years and from the view she loves so much.

At the end of November, Roberta, along with other tenants, received eviction notices stating they must vacate on Jan. 31 to complete suite renovations.

“I panicked because there’s nothing to rent in Victoria,” Roberta said.

Residents say they are facing renoviction — a tactic in which landlords attempt to kick out renters under the guise of renovating the suites before substantially raising rents.

Starlight Investments owns the property, along with five other apartment buildings in Victoria. The roughly 500 to 600 units are managed by Larlyn Property Management.

Roberta has been told she’ll be charged roughly $1,500 in rent, up more than $600 from what she currently pays — a cost, the senior says she cannot afford because she’s on a fixed income. As a result, she won’t be able to move back into the building.

After three weeks of being so sick she was unable to eat, Roberta luckily found an apartment a block-and-half away from her current place. However, not all tenants are so lucky. Roberta said many, who have already received eviction notices, have moved elsewhere.

Nina Frankl, who has lived in Seaview Towers for the past 14 years, said she expects more notices will be given out in the new year to renters in other buildings as well.

“Rent increase by eviction is becoming a big issue. There are 500 or 600 (units) who will be affected by this process,” said Frankl, adding she hasn’t received an eviction notice yet, but expects to receive one soon.

Last week, Together Against Poverty Society hosted a workshop at James Bay New Horizons where more than 60 residents showed up to express their concerns about being evicted.

Victoria-Beacon Hill NDP MLA Carole James said she began hearing concerns from residents in late November and approached the building managers and owners in the new year.

She was told tenants don’t need to worry, but is still waiting for written confirmation that tenants won’t be forced out after renovations.

“We want confirmation that tenants won’t be evicted if renovations go ahead,” she said. “We’re trying to do this in two parts. We want to fight now to keep these tenants to keep their units available for them, but also long-term so this doesn’t happen again. You really need changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.”

Another workshop is scheduled for Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. at James Bay New Horizons, 234 Menzies St., which will focus on the rights of tenants.

Calls to Larlyn Property Management were not returned before the Victoria News went to print.