A large group of seniors say they’re being forced to move out of their low-income Vancouver apartment building — but they’re not going quietly.
A “block party” was held outside the Alice Saunders building on Venables Street Saturday to protest its potential teardown, which would force more than 60 elderly residents to seek alternative housing.
The demoviction is threatening to tear apart a community that has been together for at least 20 years.
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“This is like a family,” said 79-year-old resident Sam Deiana. “It’s difficult to rebuild your life when you’re 79 years old. Why can’t they wait until we die and they can do what they want?”
The planned redevelopment would expand the 64-unit building into a complex that houses more than 100 mixed-use rental homes for individuals and families.
The proposal is awaiting permit approval from the City of Vancouver.
The residents have sent letters to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart calling on the city to intervene.
The building is owned by Brightside Community Homes, which builds affordable supportive housing for low-income residents. The non-profit group owns two dozen other properties throughout Vancouver.
The group recently received $18.1 million from the B.C. government to build 181 affordable housing units, part of the province’s plan announced last November to build 4,900 affordable mixed-income rental homes across B.C.
The city says tenants facing redevelopment are entitled to compensation based on how long they’ve rented the unit, as well as relocation assistance.
With most of the seniors saying they’ve lived in the building for 15 to 20 years, the city’s metric says they’re entitled to a minimum of four to six months rent.
Brightside spokesperson Carolina Ibarra said the redevelopment is meant to address accessibility issues for the seniors.
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She added there are now efforts to relocate the residents to other units owned by the group or by other community groups at equal rental rates.
“As long as they allow us, we will still consider these people members of the Brightside community,” she said. “We will stay in touch, and we will make sure they’re taken care of.”
But the residents say they’re not convinced there are enough units available for everyone, and some will have little to no options for alternative housing.
“I can make it work, but I know others won’t be able to afford it,” Deiana said. “When you’re old and retired, moving around shouldn’t be a part of your life.”
The Vancouver Tenants Union adds that even if rents stay the same, the residents’ costs will still go up.
“There will be transportation costs, moving costs, they might not have affordable groceries in those other areas,” organizer Jennifer Efting said.
“There has to be a way to build housing that doesn’t displace people.”
WATCH: (Aired March 8, 2017) Tenants raise concerns about demovictions
In a statement to Global News, the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association said they understand the seniors’ concerns, but added the redevelopment is necessary to add more affordable homes in Metro Vancouver.
“What sets redevelopments in the community housing sector apart from others, is that the people who call Alice Saunders home today will be able to call it home again in several years time, without spending a dollar more on their rent,” CEO Jill Atkey said.
“And they will be able to welcome dozens of new neighbours who are currently struggling to afford homes in the rental market. This is the responsible stewardship of a community asset.”