‘Renovictions’ have come to Maple Ridge, with the recent upgrading of at least one downtown building bringing eviction notices for seniors, single mothers and other low-income tenants.
The Alliance Against Displacement called a press conference for 11 a.m. on Monday to highlight the issue. The Alliance is best known in Maple Ridge for its support of the Anita Place homeless camp.
“Facing the immediate threat of homelessness, frustrated tenants of Esme Manor are demanding a halt to the sudden and shady renovictions of their low-income building, and are calling out for intervention by the new provincial government,” said a press release from the Alliance.
Some were more strident than that.
“If I don’t have a place to go on Sept. 1, guess where I’m going – tent city,” said a tenant.
“Tent city is full? Guess what we’re going to be doing? Opening up another one.
“Maple Ridge doesn’t want us to open up another one? Do something about it.”
Robert Halliday, a senior, and his wife Gail said they have nowhere to go, so they are staying put.
They were defrauded out of $1,400 in a fake online rental scam, believing they were securing another apartment, and now have neither the funds nor a location to move in to.
“The problem is, there is no affordable housing,” he said. “There is no place to rent in Maple Ridge.
He is paying $750 in rent. They will be allowed to return to their home after the renos, but the rent will increase.
The press conference was held in front of Esme Manor22225, 119th St.
Residents there are all looking for new accommodations, after a whole floor – eight units – was served eviction notices, while other residents of the 22-unit complex have been warned that they will be getting eviction notices in coming months.
“Everyone has been looking for a place, but there’s nothing to rent,” said April Matchett, a single mother with a toddler. “I’m having a really tough time finding another place to rent.
“I even have friends helping me look, but there is nothing.”
She has not yet received an eviction notice, but management has warned her to expect one, with two-months notice, at the end of August.
She pays $750 per month for a one-bedroom unit, and has been told after the renovations she can return to it, at rent increased to approximately $1,000.
Some residents are saying they will refuse to leave.
Allan Hardy, a friend of a resident, said many of the seniors in the building have been there for a long time. One has been a tenant for 25 years. He said there are few if any options for them in Maple Ridge.
“Where is the human interest? There is none. It’s hard enough to be homeless when you are young, but many of these people are elderly,” he said. “It’s all about the dollar.”
Renoviction incidences have occurred in Vancouver because the Residential Tenancy Act does not regulate rent increases between tenancies, which gives landlords an incentive to evict tenants paying lower rents.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said she had a meeting with MP Dan Ruimy and MLAs Lisa Beare and Bob D’Eith, and the renovictions issue was discussed.
The issue was red-flagged by the seniors network last week, said Read.
“This is priority No. 1 right now,” said Read. “Seniors are being evicted – that’s a very risky situation.”
She noted that no building permits were issued for renovations, and city staff inspected the building on Saturday. They found cosmetic changes, including new floors, paint and cabinets that did not require a permit.
Read said the issue of rising rents is also a challenge for the tenants.
”You’ve got a bunch of people who, those on lower rents, [this] is all they can afford,” said Read. “The result is a lot of those people could end up on the street.
“You’ve got seniors in those buildings who are terrified.”
“Lisa [Beare] has been working non-stop on this issue all weekend.”
Beare confirmed she has briefed the premier’s office and housing minister about the Maple Ridge renovictions.
“It’s on everyone’s radar,” said Beare, who was recently named to the new NDP cabinet.
Read will meet with the owner of the building, and the city is questioning whether the evictions are valid, working with the Residential Tenancy Branch.
The company that owns the building, Prospero, did not return calls.