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.”