British Columbia

Seniors fear Surrey development proposal will cost them their homes

Everyone at the meeting in Brenda Vidovic’s living room is wearing a yellow name tag, even though they all know each other.

Surrey city council is expected to vote Monday night on the massive redevelopment project

Tenants of an apartment building that's facing demolition gather in Brenda Vidovic's (second from the right, bottom row) living room in Surrey, B.C. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Everyone at the meeting in Brenda Vidovic's living room is wearing a yellow name tag, even though they all know each other.

Under each name, the tenants have also written down how long they've lived in the building on the corner of 137A Street and 101 Avenue in Surrey.

At 38 years, Earl Henwold, 69, and his wife, Margaret, 62, are the longest-serving tenants.

"We don't want to move," Margaret said."Where else are we going to go?"

On Monday night, Surrey city council is expected to vote on a developer's massive proposal to build six buildings on the site.

If the plan is approved, the midrise the Henwolds and Vidovic call home and an identical building next door, will both be torn down.

Vidovic, one of many tenants who plans to speak at next week's public hearing at city hall, says each name tag represents a person whose life will be affected by council's decision.

"The stress has been incredible," she said.

"I think we should all get a tent, pack it to city hall and see what Mayor [Doug] McCallum has to say," she said.

An artist's rendering of what the development will look like when it's completed. (Rize Alliance Properties)

The Rize

Stephen Cox, who heads up Rize's Creative Department, says the project is designed to fit the council's vision for the neighbourhood.

"The city of Surrey laid out a plan for the future, which was to respond to a significant level of growth," Cox said.

"We're looking at almost 1,000 homes on this site with a diversity of housing types that responds to people who live and work in Surrey."

For years, Surrey council has encouraged more high-density housing to be built near transit hubs in the Whalley area to accommodate the 800 or so people who move to the city every month.

Cox says the Rize proposal — which includes six towers of rental and for-sale housing that range from six to 39 storeys, ground level retail shops and a daycare — is exactly what the neighbourhood needs.

"We have an opportunity to look at innovative community development for high density and we feel like we've been able to deliver that in a way that still presents an amenity for the larger community."

If council approves the plan, construction will likely start sometime in 2021.

Earl and Margaret Henwold have lived in the building for 38 years. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

Relocation

Rize's proposal includes more than 170 units of at-market rental housing to replace the 154 rental suites that will be torn down.

Tenant Carole Holhein, 69, says many of her neighbours are seniors on fixed incomes who are currently paying about $750 a month in rent.

She says even with the compensation package Rize is offering for relocation — which starts at three months rent and goes up from there, depending on how long the tenant has lived in the complex — she won't be able to afford to move into the new building.

"I don't think they know what affordable means," Holhein said. "Our rents are going to double."

Rize will also cover moving expenses and has assigned a case manager to help each tenant find new housing.

Tenant Beverly Palmer says she hasn't found anything nearby that's in her price range.

"I'll probably move back to Manitoba or someplace," she said. "Somewhere I can afford to pay rent."

For the Henwolds, leaving after 38 years will be difficult.

The building is where Earl and Margaret started their lives together and her parents used to live down the hall.

"It's hard to wrap your head around," she said. "I figured this was going to be my home for the rest of my life."

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