Certainty is all that Don Morris wants.
The retired dentist owns a condo unit in False Creek South, where he and his wife live.
The land is owned by the City of Vancouver, and the leases of the Morris couple and other residents in their three-storey strata building expire in 2036.
They do not know whether the city will renew or end the leases.
They are not alone.
There are 669 residential strata and 48 commercial strata units in the waterfront community located between the Burrard and Cambie bridges.
Most of the 60-year leases of the 717 stratas will start to end between 2036 and 2046.
The city owns 80 percent of the 55-hectare neighbourhood, which 5,800 residents of various income levels and residential tenures call home.
In addition to strata units, False Creek South is also host to housing co-ops and non-market housing projects.
“I’m kind of concerned about the building because I’m part of the strata council, and so it gets difficult to make a decision, like if we have to make an expensive renovation to keep things in top shape,” Morris told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview on June 11.
Two days earlier, Morris wrote the city mayor, members of council, and the city’s manager about concerns by residents about the lack of clarity regarding the leases.
“As the length of the remaining lease shortens, I fear the maintenance will be stopped and we will end up living in a slum,” Morris stated in his June 9 letter.
In the interview, Morris said that he simply wants to know what the city intends to do.
“Either extend it or tell us that they’re not going to extend it, so we know what to do,” Morris said.
The Straight sought comment from the city, offering to interview by phone a staff member involved in the False Creek South file.
A statement from Nick Kassam, general manager for real estate and facilities management, was offered by the city.
“We understand that those who purchased a leasehold interest in False Creek South want to know what will happen when their current terms are up,” the statement read in part.
“The City will make decisions as to whether renew these leases, or not, in advance of lease expiry,” the statement continued.
Here is Morris’ letter to the city:
Dear Mayor Stewart. Sadhu Johnson and City Councillors,
I am a resident of south False Creek. We live on land that is leased from the City of Vancouver. South False Creek was developed to meet the needs of a diverse community, after many years as a contaminated industrial area. This development has been widely acclaimed as a diverse, affordable and beautiful area. According to the City of Vancouver’s website: The City of Vancouver is committed to building affordable, socially inclusive, environmentally sustainable, healthy, safe and diverse communities. This area seems to fit the City of Vancouver’s commitment exactly.
Even though city councillors have repeatedly told their staff to resolve the lease problem, some city staff do not seem to have the same commitment that the City does. I would like to communicate to you how stressful it is for us, not knowing how and when the lease issue will be resolved.
One of the disadvantages of living in a leasehold property is the insecurity regarding the future. My wife and I will be quite elderly and possibly vulnerable when our lease ends. It is a worry to have to contemplate a potential costly move, not knowing our future health status. We trust we won’t have to relocate outside of Vancouver at that age.
We moved to False Creek in 2010 because it is a convenient and beautiful area. As well, it was challenging to find affordable housing in a safe area of Vancouver at that time. That is why we chose the compromise of purchasing a leasehold property. Since our move, we have happily discovered that we can form relationships with a diversity of people from different backgrounds as well as different incomes and ages in an authentic community. Unfortunately, that diversity is already being affected, as very few young people can buy property here with only 15 years left on the lease which prohibits most mortgages.
Because the ultimate resolution of our lease is unknown, the outcome on the lives of us, the citizens of Vancouver, has been dramatic. Our buildings are 35 years old, not old, but getting older. All buildings need maintenance. Because the lease–end is getting nearer, there are difficult decisions to be made about how much money to spend on repairs. As the length of the remaining lease shortens, I fear the maintenance will be stopped and we will end up living in a slum. That seems a shame for such a beautiful area.
Even though this development was considered high density when it was built, there are still areas that may be developed even further to support mixed income households and senior citizens. I feel it would be wonderful if this area could be even further enhanced, instead of having everything torn down in 15 years and making it the same as the rest of the area around False Creek, overflowing with nondescript high rises with anonymous residents.
Thank you for taking the time to understand our concerns.