Seafield Apartments residents face eviction after renovation talks

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      It’s pretty hard to plan a home birth for the same day you face possible eviction.

      Just ask Dana Crudo, a 34-year-old West End renter who is due to give birth for the first time on February 1. If she is served with an expected three-month eviction notice from her building’s owners in the next few days, she and her husband, Bobby Crudo—who rent a two-bedroom suite at the Seafield Apartments at 1436 Pendrell Street—will possibly have to deal with childbirth and moving on the same day.

      “It is extremely unsettling,” Dana told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “My instincts want to be able to settle down, and, obviously, we don’t know. Everything’s kind of up in the air. There are ups and downs that come with that. Luckily, the community in our building is incredible and super supportive and that makes it somewhat easier. But it’s definitely something that’s there in the back of our minds and it makes it a little bit harder to move forward.”

      All 24 tenants in the building’s 14 suites face the same eviction worries as Dana and Bobby. Gordon Nelson Investments Inc. acquired the 1931 listed heritage building on July 31 and started talking renovations soon after, according to 11-year Seafield resident Maureen Molloy.

      “We’ve seen them work their way around the building measuring stuff, so we finally said, ”˜Can we have a meeting with you and find out what is going on?’ ” Molloy told the Straight by phone. “In late August or early September we had a meeting with Chris Nelson, who is one of the owners of the building, and he said flat out—and I was amazed at how candid he was—that he wanted to eliminate everyone from the building. They want to evict everyone so that they can change the heating to individual heating, so people are on individual meters, [and] add a wall in the bedrooms—to change two bedrooms to three bedrooms so there is an extra bedroom.”

      Assuming they tried to stay put in that scenario, the Crudos would then see their rent skyrocket to $2,600 a month from the current $1,450, according to Dana. Brian Broster lives on the same floor as the young couple and pays the same rent, but speaking outside the building’s front doors, he told the Straight: “I don’t think it’s affordable. It’s definitely middle-income.”

      Broster, an architect and civil engineer, said all tenants are united in their aim to stop Nelson and business partner Jason Gordon from evicting them and jacking up the rents. He claimed the landlords are making use of a loophole in Section 49 (6) (b) of the provincial Residential Tenancy Act, which states: “A landlord may end a tenancy in respect of a rental unit if the landlord has all the necessary permits and approvals required by law, and intends in good faith, to”¦renovate or repair the rental unit in a manner that requires the rental unit to be vacant.”

      Renters at Risk, a West End advocacy group, has long lobbied for changes to the RTA to help renters. However, the group only last week got a meeting with Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman after the Straight reported it had been trying to meet with him for 18 months. Coleman’s B.C. Liberal government made controversial amendments to the act in 2002.

      According to Broster, who is not part of Renters at Risk but who also attended the meeting, it would be useful if B.C. adopted Ontario’s policy of giving tenants the right of first refusal once renovations are done.

      “However, if Rich Coleman puts in right of first refusal tomorrow, that’s not going to save us,” he said.

      Broster said landlords simply “tweak” the scale of the renovations based on the resistance they are getting from tenants to move them out in timely fashion and with no fuss. However, with the provincial election nearing, the Seafield residents are taking the issue to the wall. On Halloween night (October 31), they will host their annual party in the building, but the theme this year is Nightmare on Pendrell Street. (More tenant stories can be found at seafieldapartments.com)

      Rich Coleman declined a Straight interview request. Nelson told the Straight he and Gordon are “not comfortable talking about plans for the building that may or may not affect them [tenants]."

      “We are really sensitive to talking about this stuff, and if anything comes of it, we’re going to talk to them first before we talk to the media,” Nelson said via his cellphone. “The tenants have our contact information. They can call us anytime and we are happy to discuss with the tenants, but not with the media.”

      Comments

      1 Comments

      dmorency

      Nov 11, 2008 at 3:51pm

      DMorency
      We need to control the market rental sector. Politicians and government must be accountable for the lack of affordable housing and rental. This is about controlling the private market and force the landlords to be socially responsible to the tenants and the City of Vancouver. How is it possible to charge for things such as Stanley Park and the ocean when it has been there forever. When it is something provided by mother nature a commodity whereby you can astronomically increase the rent. We need the City of Vancouver to start buying the private rental stock and control the rents otherwise those of us who can afford an average rental that the rest of the country charges will be forced to leave the province because we cannot afford to live here. If this smacks of socialism so be it because capitalism profit driven system will always be motivated by immediate greed and money.

      The argument that those who can afford it will pay the higher rents. It was affordable to those tenants before you purchased the property - if not for those gapping loopholes in the Tenancy Act this would not happen. You would not be able to do this legally and for all of you who have taken take the spirit of this legislation to increase your profits the expense of people that live in those buildings; you are all guilty and yes you have contributed to the affordability issues that we now face just because you can does it mean you should?

      As I have said in the past until capitalism, human greed and profit driven systems are forced to be moral & ethical our lives as we know it will be forever changed.

      The economic issues that have hit everyone is the result of capitalism and the people at the top. These people, educated, ran billion dollars empires are responsible for the economic crises we are ALL facing. These people are responsible as a result of their greed and power have caused untold damage to thousands.

      So, to the Government of BC your lack of state paternalism laws and your profit based legislation has made it possible for those landlords and companies to get around the loops to the detriment of the people you purport to represent. What exactly are you representing? Good government and its politicians have to be above reproach, have a higher ethical standard and never be motivated by profit. To leave the market up to the private citizen you get what we are now dealing with evictions, dis-location and despair.

      The residents of the West End are not the ones causing the problems with homelessness and rental affordability issues. It is the developers, property management companies that are the problem. They buy property and speculate and try to shove through their developments ideas down our throats.

      I am lobbying hard to have a complete ban on any further development in the West End. Is it possible that we can have a capitalist system and still have social integrity?

      What makes the West End unique are the low rises, the Mom & Pop shops that still exist. Developers are sucking the vitality out of the West End. Where are the people who work at the “crappy” jobs supposed to live? They will not be commuting to downtown Vancouver to work at Starbucks when it is costing them $10.00 per day in transit. If you people do not do your jobs and think about these re-zoning proposals and force social obligations you are going to lose the West End. Private companies will never think about the greater good as the motivation is to make money. They do not care how it will impact those who are affected . Why can’t the City for the first time force these developers to be socially responsible?
      This may have never been done in Vancouver but it does not mean it shouldn’t be done. This process has been done in major European cities and we can do it here. Everyone is responsible for the problems in Vancouver and we cannot expect the developers to have a social conscience unless government legislation is implemented to prevent this type of exploitation - government must set the example if we expect private owners to be ethical and fair.

      The City has an endowment fund of over two hundred and fifty million dollars. They have spent one hundred million on the Olympic Housing. The City could begin buying private market buildings and allow the tenants to remain in these apartments and control the rental. The city could in coloration with CHMC and tenants can create a Co-Op out of the building as well. The BC Government can close the loop holes in the Tenancy Act and give the right of refusal to tenants, shore up the rights of tenants so that property owners cannot dislocate tenants. The BC Government has an obligation to govern and represent the people in this province. They point of having a government is to ensure that those who do not have a voice, lobbyist, or lawyers, provide and create legislation to balance out the abuses and social injustice. There is the law of the land but the more important one is social justice. My personal friends are and have been going through the eviction process with Hollyburn - they are fighting it tooth and nail and so far winning. But the stress and anxiety it creates is sometimes overwhelming and this what landlords count on. We can all choose to do things different and try to come with solutions. The evictions that are taking place is the result of greed, money, and with no regard to the impact it has on the people they are evicting. The reason I and all my friends rent is simply - owing anything in the City has become unattainable. I may even have to move right out of the province in a few short years.

      Maybe we need to stand in the millions as they do in Europe in order for the government to listen”¦.

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