Renoviction bylaw doesn’t stop New Westminster tenants from protesting evictions
Even with an amended bylaw aimed at curbing so-called ‘renovictions,’ New Westminster tenants are still fighting to keep their homes.
“It’s a scary feeling,” renter Kyla Yeates told Global News.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to afford to live in this area anymore.”
For close to seven years, Yeates has been a tenant in the rental building at 732 5th Avenue in New Westminster.
Two days after Christmas in 2018, she and other tenants received eviction notices from their landlord.
“We just don’t see why our tenancy should have to end in order for them to renovate the building,” said Yeates.
“It doesn’t seem fair or necessary.”
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Yeates joined a few dozen others outside the building on Sat. March 2 to rally against what they claim are unfair evictions in the city, which just enacted the toughest rules against renovictions in Metro Vancouver.
“My biggest fear right now is that we continue to lose affordable housing at an incredible rate,” said John Rethmetakis of the Vancouver Tenants Union.
The City of New Westminster says tenants of 315 units were forced out in recent years. That rental reality led to council unanimously supporting a bylaw change on Feb. 4, approving fines for landlords who evict tenants without notice, or who fail to provide them right of first refusal after renovations are done.
“I’m hopeful it will help us even though we were evicted before the bylaw was passed,” said Yeates, who is now disputing her eviction through the province’s Residential Tenancy Branch.
When reached by phone and asked if he was renovicting tenants, building landlord Dinesh Chand told Global News he could not comment due to the ongoing dispute.
In an emailed statement, Chand’s lawyer slammed those participating in the rally, which was organized by the New Westminster Tenants Union, calling it “irresponsible for individuals who do not live in the buildings in question to organize protests.”
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Michael Drouillard of Harper Grey LLP said such protests only serve to “inflame tensions… and unfairly put blame for the shortage of affordable rental housing on small landlords like my client.”
Drouillard said the building at 732 5th Avenue in New West has reached the end of its useful economic life, yet his client chose to try and preserve existing rental stock instead of demolishing it and building new condos or market rentals.
“Ending the tenancies was a difficult decision, but the only one available given the scope of the renovation, the need for vacant possession, and the existing legal regime,” his statement read.
Drouillard added that his client has tried to minimize the impact by offering existing tenants subsidized rent and alternative affordable housing, which most have accepted.
The New Westminster Tenants Union said some of the tenants who have left haven’t found a place yet and have nowhere to go.
“Market rates in New West are as much as $500-$600 more per month than what they are currently paying,” said organizer Phil Dluhy.
Meantime, Yeates’ hearing to dispute her eviction is set for March 12.
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