British Columbia

'We're living in a war zone': Crews tear down Surrey mobile park with seniors still living there

Residents of Green Tree Estates have until December to move out — but park is being actively demolished.

Residents of Green Tree Estates have until December to leave — but vacant homes are already being demolished

Richard Porta stands in front of the dismantled mobile home that sits across the street from his unit inside Green Tree Estates. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Sheryl Lin Murray walks along the gravel road that runs through the torn-up mobile home park she calls home. Heavy rain soaks debris, appliances, and garbage that are scattered across the property.

"We're living in a war zone that is getting increasingly filthy, dirty, [and] unhealthy," said Murray, 65, who lives with her sister Susan in one of the few remaining intact units.

"[It's] mentally challenging to go in and out of your door every day," she added. "It's not healthy."

The park, known as Green Tree Estates, is on Fraser Highway in the Fleetwood area of Surrey. A developer has bought out the owners of the 80 manufactured homes and plans to build more than 100 townhomes on the land.

Residents — most of whom are seniors — have until the end of 2019 to move out, and dozens already have. But a handful don't want to leave until they have to, and are now watching demolition crews dismantling vacant units and piling up debris just metres away from their doorsteps.

Several residents say squatters have moved in to some of the half torn-down units, and have even been scavenging for copper. 

Sheryl Lin Murray her sister, Susan, are looking to find an affordable home after being bought out of their small mobile unit inside Green Tree Estates in Surrey. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

A new development

City of Surrey council approved developer Dawson and Sawyer's application for the townhome development in May 2018. At a meeting that month, Ted Dawson of Dawson and Sawyer told council he was doing everything to ensure residents found new places to live.

"Every single resident has chosen to enter into a legal and binding agreement with the applicant for the purchase of their manufactured home," he said at the time.

Homeowners received offers to have their homes relocated if it was viable to move and find a new place for them. Some residents were paid the assessed value of their homes with a $20,000 bonus, as well as moving expenses.

Vacant and half-torn homes have invited squatters and scavengers, according to several residents who spoke with CBC News. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Murray says residents even had the first right to rent in the future townhouse complex.

"It started from there, it was very amicable," she said. "And it just has kind of deteriorated since then."

Squatters and vandals

Crews began dismantling the park by last summer, Murray said. The living area has since become cluttered with debris that residents are calling hazardous.

A spokesperson from Dawson and Sawyer said crews originally boarded up the vacant homes but they attracted squatters and vandals.

The developer hired a private security company and worked with the RCMP to secure the property, with no success.

The fire department has since ordered that the buildings be torn down, the spokesperson said. The cleanup is expected to take 10 days.

'Seniors should be taken care of'

Richard Porta is one of the few residents still living in the complex. A half-torn home sits across the road from his unit.

"This is the view that I get from my front window every day when I get up. Nice, eh?" he said. "Some of this has been here since before Christmas."

Dozens of homes inside this once busy mobile park sit empty. Remaining residents say demolition crews began dismantling the park after a developer received approval from the City of Surrey to convert it into a townhome complex. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Even with the buyout, Porta says he won't be able to afford to live in Metro Vancouver. He says many other residents are in similar circumstances.

"It's unfortunate the seniors should have to get of the way, seniors who have lived here, worked here, paid taxes here, raised their families here,"  said Porta. "Seniors should be taken care of."

'I'm going to be a thorn in their side'

Among those seniors is Bob Potter, 88, who moved into the park 10 years ago and hoped to spend the rest of his life there.

"The whole place was very economical to live in," he said.

Several debris piles sit throughout the property. Remaining residents call it an eyesore that isn't getting cleaned up. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Potter now plans to move into his son's basement. It's not how he thought he'd spend the rest of his days — but he still intends on living in his current home for as long as he can.

"I'm going to stay to the last day," he said. "I'm going to be a thorn in their side and a pain in their ass."

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