Midfield Mobile Home Park evictions delayed by court order
Calgary lawyer says evictions may be in breach of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
There's no relief yet for people living in Calgary's Midfield Mobile Home Park, despite a court order Monday saying they could stay beyond the city's planned Sept. 30 eviction date.
"There's no decision made," said Rudy Prediger, one of anywhere from six to 30 people still living in the city-owned park in the 900 block of 16th Avenue N.E.
"They've been trying to get rid of us for some time."
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jim Eamon made the order Monday morning, saying residents will not be evicted pending another court hearing that is set for Nov. 22.
The move came after Mathew Farrell, with the Guardian Law Group, took the park residents' case to court on Monday, saying the city's reasons for evicting the residents — crumbling water and sewer infrastructure — goes against the province's Mobile Homes Sites Tenancy Act.
"The act only gives you certain, narrow grounds for evicting somebody," Farrell said, adding a landlord can only evict someone to repair, replace or improve a utility, or to use the land "for something else."
"The problem here is that they're not going to be repairing, replacing or improving the utilities. They're just going to be removing them, so that doesn't help [the city]. And they're not going to be using the land for something else, it's going to be lying fallow. So that doesn't help [the city]."
It was just the latest sally in a long-running battle.
In 2007, the city said the mobile home park needed to be closed due to the deteriorating condition of the infrastructure and residents would be re-located to a new park on 84th Street N.E.
By 2014, though, the relocation plan was scrapped due to costs, but the plan to close Midfield in 2017 was left in place, with the city giving the remaining residents up to Sept. 30 to get out.
"The building that you live in will still be there at least until the 22nd of November," Eamon told the residents in the courtroom gallery.
Eamon ordered the Calgary Housing Company to ensure everyone at the park was aware of the order allowing them to stay beyond Sept. 30.
Prediger, 82, who has lived in the park for 47 years, says there is nowhere for him to move his mobile home.
"They want to throw me out on the street," said Prediger. "They have to build around me cause I'm not going no place."
Farrell said the problem with the city's legal justification for ordering the evictions "would be as true for the city as it would for any other landlord."
Ward 7 candidate Dean Brawn was also in the gallery with residents whom he helped put in contact with the lawyer.
'Everything that I have worked and saved for … is gone'
Plans to close Midfield even though the alternate site was scrapped have left remaining residents like Tracy Peters at an emotional and financial loss.
Residents own the trailers but lease the land where they sit from the city.
Peters says she spent $60,000 buying and renovating her home in the Midfield park, only to have the city offer her and other residents 10 cents on the dollar for the value.
"Everything that I have worked and saved for in the last 15 years is gone, it has literally been robbed from me," she said.
Peters says because there's nowhere to relocate the mobile homes "your houses are actually worthless."
"So even if you were wanting to relocate, or wanting to move on and move up, your houses are now deemed by the city to be worthless," she said.
Possible charter breach?
Farrell said the eviction could possibly be in breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of the way the residents have been treated by the city, adding it goes against "core values that we hold dear to us as Canadians."
"These people worked hard, they saved their money and they bought an asset. They bought, maybe not a house, but they bought a home," Farrell said.
Farrell believes the court challenge has a chance.
"So if you put yourselves in these people's shoes, would this feel like a slap in the face? And if so, you've got yourself a basic case for a charter breach," he said.
Tony Shwaluk has lived in Midfield for nearly three decades with wife Josie, and says he has faith Farrell's involvement will end in good news for him and others still in the park.
"I'm sure he'll stick up for us and get us what we need," he said, calling the city's offer of 10 cents on the dollar "disgraceful."
Regardless of how the case plays out in court, Shwaluk said he has no intention of leaving his home.
"The only way they're going to take me out of here is in a pine box," he said.
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