Pitt couple evicted from housing co-op

Joan and Jim Fast appealed decision under compassionate grounds.

Joan and Jim Fast are being evicted from Meadowlands Housing Co-op for housing their ill son for longer than allowed.

Joan and Jim Fast are being evicted from Meadowlands Housing Co-op for housing their ill son for longer than allowed.

With a half-packed box at her feet, Joan Fast stops to rest on a couch with a cup of tea.

For the past few weeks, she’s been slowly chipping away at packing all her possessions.

“I pack a little every day,” says a defeated Fast, who is being evicted from Meadowlands Co-op in Pitt Meadows, a home she’s shared with her husband Jim for 11 years.

The Fasts admit they breached the cooperative’s rules, which don’t allow guests to stay beyond a period of 60 days.

But when their son David, who suffers from a debilitating skin condition, was unable to work, they took him in. He’s been living with them at the Advent Road complex since February.

“I can’t throw him out on the street. I’m not that kind of a parent,” says Jim Fast.

The couple claims they told the cooperative that their son was going to be living with them temporarily until he healed and got back on his feet. They hoped the cooperative would accommodate them on compassionate grounds. Joan Fast had a pacemaker put in about a month ago. She’s also recovering from a stroke.

But after the Fasts failed to comply with a warning, the cooperative issued an eviction notice.

The Fasts appealed and lost. Their only recourse now is fighting the eviction in B.C. Supreme Court.

“We were open about David being here,” said Jim Fast, noting the eviction notice arrived a week before the co-op’s annual general meeting, where he was planning to run for president.

With a June 30 eviction date looming, the Fasts have nowhere to go. They are seniors on a fixed income and have been paying $550 monthly for a two-bedroom home. Their options are limited.

“I’m 80 years old and I have to find a place to live,” said Fast. “It’s pretty hard. No matter what happens, we are going to move.”

Under B.C.’s Cooperative Association Act and Cooperative Association Regulations, a member can be evicted for three reasons: non-payment of housing fees; a breach of the occupancy agreement; or conduct detrimental to the housing cooperative.

The act, though, sees eviction as a remedy of last resort.

“A cooperative is people banding together to help one and another achieve a better way of life,” Fast said. “This coop is run like a concentration camp. You can’t do this and you can’t do that.”

For Lou Rene Legge, who is Jim’s bridge partner and friend, the Fasts’ plight epitomizes unfairness.

“Although this co-op is a government-funded cooperative through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and B.C. Housing, there appears to be no mechanism available to protect the rights of cooperative members from an overzealous board,” says Legge, who has appealed to MLAs Marc Dalton and Doug Bing to help the Fasts.

“Compassion for a difficult family situation should be the first order of business. When people of this age bracket can be thrown out into the street, something is surely wrong with the operation of this cooperative.”

Meadowlands is a housing co-op for seniors over 60 years of age. It was not set up as a family residence when it was incorporated in 1979.

Meadowslands’ board of directors stresses it has given the Fasts several chances to comply.

“We have a member who has been breaking the co-op rules,” said manager Glenda Pohl. “We are following the procedures and the advice from our lawyer.”

The Fasts’ appeal was voted on via a special resolution that required 66 per cent of membership votes to pass. The co-op has 84 members.

According to board president Shirley Quinn, it’s the second time the Fasts have allowed their son to live with them.

“The first time was on and off between 2010 and 2011,” said Quinn.

“This time, it’s been since February. We’ve been as compassionate as we can be. The rules are the rules.”