Tenants of East Vancouver apartment building speak out against “renoviction”

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      Enrica Orazietti has stored a lifetime’s worth of memories in her one-bedroom Vancouver apartment.

      It was there that Orazietti made a fresh start when she moved in almost 30 years ago. She went back to college, and became a teacher, a grandmother, and later, a great-grandmother.

      It was also at the four-storey apartment building at 1925 Woodland Drive where she made new friends and felt safe.

      Now 75, Orazietti has to leave everything behind and start all over again.

      The property was sold, and its new owner is going to renovate the entire place. Residents have to be out by April 30 this year.

      Facing eviction, Orazietti poured out her heart in an interview Wednesday (February 18).

      “Some stranger comes in and tells you to go, just like that,” Orazietti told the Straight almost in tears.

      She also has a lot of questions that are likely being asked by many.

      “What’s happening to Vancouver?” Orazietti asked.

      The City of Vancouver has issued development and building permits for the renovation of 1925 Woodland Drive.

      On January 26, tenants were informed through letter by the 1925 Woodland Drive Limited Liability Partnership that it has been retained by the new owner, 0993786 BC Ltd., to manage the place.

      Two days later, tenants received another letter from 1925 Woodland Drive LLP’s Charmaine Damonse telling them they have to vacate the 30-unit apartment building by April 30.

      The eviction notice attached to the letter was signed by Anthony Pappajohn, founder of Jameson Development Corp.

      Pappajohn’s James Holdings Ltd., which shares the same office address as 1925 Woodland Drive LLP, was identified as the contact in the building permit issued on January 21 by the City of Vancouver.

      When reached by phone today (February 19), 1925 Woodland Drive LLP's Damonse told the Straight that someone else would call to answer questions about the property renovation and eviction of tenants.

      Orazietti is at a loss as to where she can find a home as affordable as hers.

      She moved in back in 1987 and her rent started at $250 a month. Her former landlord didn’t increase rent a lot, and she currently pays $665.

      According to Orazietti’s neighbour Little Woo, who herself has to find a new home, places like 1925 Woodland Drive are important to many people.

      “People are making their whole lives happen in these one-bedroom and bachelor suites, and people are happy. They don’t ask for very much,” Woo told the Straight.

      Christiane Helzel has lived in the building for many years and she was also the manager.

      Helzel, who was diagnosed with cancer in December last year, said she was fired by the new owners. She also has to be out by the end of April.

      “I’ve been here for 20 years, and all of a sudden the rug gets pulled out,” Helzel told the Straight.

      According to Helzel, the residents, except in two units, pay less than $900 in rent.

      Pam Burge, another tenant, feels a big sense of loss.

      “It’s a community here, and it’s just destroyed like that,” Burge said, snapping her fingers.

      Burge vented her ire on Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party.

      While “this fucking Robertson…keeps talking about affordable housing”, according to Burge, the city isn’t protecting places that offer affordable housing.

      Burge said that the way the city under Robertson now defines affordable housing is “ridiculous”. She was referring pointedly to the city’s definition of affordable housing as rent not exceeding $1,433 a month for a studio unit; $1,517 for a one-bedroom; and $2,061 for a two-bedroom.

      According to a timeline of events prepared by residents, orange colour construction barriers went up on January 30, two days after tenants received eviction notices.

      The following day, the garbage bin was locked. On February 3, the garbage bin was gone.

      For Orazietti, it’s more than a place she has to give up: “It’s a life history that I’m leaving here behind.”




      Feb 19, 2015 at 2:42pm

      Welcome to capitalism.


      Feb 19, 2015 at 4:37pm

      Change is hard if you aren't resilient, grasshoppers.

      Edward Bernays

      Feb 19, 2015 at 4:56pm

      Dickensian. If the city is to accept renovictions as the new normal then they must implement resources for all these displaced renters. It may come as a surprise to property owners but tenants are actually citizens. I think they even have the vote. Transit tax anyone?


      Feb 19, 2015 at 10:35pm

      unfortunately, when you are a renter as opposed to an owner you are at the mercy of the people who own the land and the building.


      Feb 20, 2015 at 1:49am

      greedy landlords killed vancouver

      soon all of vancouver will be empty. while landlords scratch their heads and wonder why everybody left

      James Blatchford

      Feb 20, 2015 at 10:50am

      While the notice period sucks and is unfair, 30 years of peace and security in a rental is a long blessing that few tenants get. Not to be callous about the very real stress and disruption in people's lives, but was this day not inevitable?


      Feb 20, 2015 at 11:30am

      Cry me a river. Paying $665 rent for an apartment that would normally rent for around $1100 is a pretty good deal if you've been saving that over the years. 30 years is a long enough time to move on.


      Feb 20, 2015 at 11:41am

      Will all of the unsympathetic people in the comments also be complaining when these people need help from the government to cover their new rent? Perhaps they will need purpose built units, whereas before, they were self sufficient. Are you upset with them for not being as well-off as you? Or does it embarrass you to know that people still had accommodation that was within their means in Vancouver, which is "supposed" to be expensive so it feels more world class and exclusive? Gross.

      Edward Bernays

      Feb 20, 2015 at 1:27pm

      Is there a crowd funding campaign where we can contribute to the legal costs of the tenants? If the eviction is inevitable then there is no reason not to make it difficult for the owners.