British Columbia

Cambie corridor neighbours raise concerns about squatters

Neighbours in the Cambie corridor are raising concerns over vacant and boarded up properties that have been left empty by developers, but are now housing squatters.

'No one seems to care,' says one resident as people move in to boarded-up properties left empty by developers

Travis Montgomery says squatting in a west side property is like 'a five star resort' (Doug Trent/CBC)

Neighbours in the Cambie corridor are raising concerns over vacant and boarded-up properties left empty by developers that are now housing squatters.

Daniel Farkas, who lives in the area of Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue, says there are two nearby homes where squatters have been coming and going for months.

"I've called the city many times … and they've told me to call the VPD and they've made arrests but it's not going to solve the issue. The issue is the fact that these houses aren't secured," he said.

The Cambie corridor is one of the mostly rapidly changing areas of Vancouver.

Since the Canada Line turned the corridor into a major transit artery in 2009, houses have come down and 14,000 new homes as well as rental and social housing are planned.

Travis Montgomery is one of the squatters living in a home adjacent to Farkas' property. The 39-year-old was handed a violation ticket for trespassing after a noise complaint last week.

Travis Montgomery says he usually lives in tents but became a squatter in the last few weeks. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Montgomery, who says he is from White Rock, is on welfare and says he can't afford the high cost of Vancouver rentals.

"If you go to B.C. Housing, I find a lot of them are crack dens, [you] just end up going back to stuff you're trying to stay away from," said Montgomery.

"The shelters, they fill up fast, bunch of guys in one room ... snoring all night. I'm a light sleeper, I kind of like to have my own space."

'Five-star resort'

A week ago Montgomery moved into the boarded-up house, which is worth $4.8 million according to B.C. Assessment.

"I just started squatting a couple of weeks ago. I've been living in a tent actually. I've been a tenter for a while," he said.

"My background is field geologist, so I've been outside in tents — so squatting in a house in Vancouver is a five-star resort, right?"

Farkas says the electricity is still on in some of the abandoned homes and he's worried about the potential for fires.

"No one seems to care. And there's no onus on the developer," he said. "The owner of that lot should be liable for maintaining the house and lot, and that's not happening."

Property owners accountable

In a statement, the City of Vancouver said it would be sending out inspectors and fire and rescue services to investigate the property where Montgomery is staying, after it received a 311 call on Sunday morning about a possible squatter.

"Property owners are accountable for ensuring their buildings and properties are adequately secured," said the statement. "If a property owner does not maintain a secure premise, the city will secure the property and bill the owner."

Montgomery said he would never stay in a home that wasn't set to be demolished. He says construction crews told him the building is set to come down in a week.