British Columbia

New Westminster renovictions leave low-income renters feeling desperate

A low-income renter says the pending renoviction of her apartment building has residents seeing few options for affordable housing.

Company says building hasn't seen significant work since 1970 and renovations are necessary

A renter living in this low-rise apartment says she and her neighbours are being renovicted by the owners and have few other housing options. (Google Streetview)

A resident of a New Westminster apartment building says a coming renoviction will leave her and 60 to 100 of her low-income neighbours with few options.

Peggy Casey says the third-floor residents of Westcourt Manor on 7th Street were given a formal renoviction notice in May, meaning they have to move out by the end of July.

Residents of the first and second floor have been put on notice informally, and been told that once management gets renovation permits from the city, they too will be renovicted.

"Even the crummiest places around here have a waitlist. And the places that don't have either exorbitant rent or they have bedbugs or just really, really poor management," Casey said.

"If we can't find a place by the end of the two months, then we're looking at having to couch surf at our friends' houses until we can actually find something."

Casey has lived in her two-bedroom apartment for seven years and pays $960 per month.

"I'm looking at what I'm going to have to pay in rent, compared to what I've been paying, and it's a huge leap."

Appeal planned

Casey argues that while the suites could use some work, there aren't enough problems to justify the renovictions.

She suspects the real motivation behind the renovictions is to remove the long-term renters so rents can be raised beyond the usual year-over-year amount allowed by the Residential Tenancy Act.

New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy says renovictions are becoming more frequent in the city, especially when it comes to low-rise buildings built in the '60s and '70s

"Rumours are circulating in a lot of our low-rise, affordable rental buildings in the city," she said. "So there is a climate of considerable uncertainty."

She says the heart of the issue is the lack of tenants rights in the Residential Tenancy Act and the lack of affordable options.

Owners say repairs necessary

The building's owners, the M1 Group, say the work at Westcourt Manor is necessary because significant upgrades have not been done since 1970.

In a statement, they said it is "unfortunate" that the tenants will need to leave, but that residents of the second floor will receive more notice before their eviction after third-floor residents expressed surprise at the timeline.

"We have taken proactive steps including speaking directly with tenants on the specific implications, how we may offer assistance as well as what governmental support there may be available to them," the company wrote. 

"We also contacted property management companies regarding potential rentals that may be available."

​Mayor wants more renter protection

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote says Westcourt Manor is one of two apartment buildings being renovicted in the city at the moment.

"Building owners do need to make significant renovations, but when you've got residents that have been living in the building 10-plus years, it can be quite a traumatic situation," he said.

"We are trying to do everything we can at the municipal level to try and address the issue of housing in our city and our region, but … it's going to require further support from both the provincial and federal government."

Casey agrees protection of renters' rights could be improved, but says that doesn't help with her situation here and now.

"I probably won't wind up living in New West after this. I probably won't find a place here," she said.

"Where do the low-income people have to go?"

With files from Natasha Frakes