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Mad as hell and not going to take it….

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‪Our story became front page news on The Record yesterday, June 22, but I wonder if we’re even truly on the radar of the politicians who are playing political hot potato with people’s lives. The story, http://www.newwestrecord.ca/news/fighting-for-future-renters-in-the-city-1.20734114#sthash.bbP1rCFY.uxfs‬ shows the photo of Peggy Casey and below chronicles the timeline of how this particular renoviction went down. Oh yes, eviction due to renovations, a palatable term that politicians and developers prefer use to describe what is really going on, but let’s call a spade a spade. People are being displaced from their homes for profit, plain and simple. I’m sure cities would prefer buildings with aesthetically appeal lining their city blocks. I’d like to live in one, an affordable one, wouldn’t we all? There’s renovations to suites that could and should have been done for the tenants living here, but that didn’t happen. Instead these buildings were allowed to age out with cosmetic changes made to the exteriors.

Meanwhile we get caught in the middle. I’ve lived here 5 years.  I’m making some noise, seeking out my options, searching for resources, trying to make something happen all while trying to find a home for myself and my cat. This is beyond easier said than done. It seems a lost cause but that’s not going to stop me. In the latest city of many that has allowed those with money to determine the future face of all our communities, a renter with a low income doesn’t count. At least that is the way it feels, but more than that, our governments have demonstrated that this is true by simply turning their backs on us or shrugging their shoulders at a problem that needs shoulders and will put into it. Our local MLA is sympathetic but her hands are tied. For starters BC doesn’t even have a proper government yet. Even if there was the will there is always the endless consultations, studies and reports that tell all of us what we already know. I would bargain those people being paid very well to consult, study and report on the situation aren’t being put out of their homes. 

I walk through my neighbourhood and I can almost see all the low rises being “renovated”. Where will those people go? Don’t kid yourself. We’re not just fighting, we’re fighting for our lives here.

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Anatomy of a renoviction or as The Record calls it….

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This is what a renoviction does…

Letter to the editor of The Record published Thursday, June 15, 2017

I am gutted, as I’m sure everyone in my building is. I feel sick about what I am going to do about an affordable home in the very near future. I got a niggling feeling when I saw the assortment of SUVs drive up to park and deposit occupants who then appeared to be thoughtfully mulling over the bones of my neat and modest 3 storey apartment building here in New Westminster. This small building of 54 homes is where Frank lives. His mobility is restricted to a wheelchair and he just went through a fight with cancer. It is the home of several families with small children. There are families whose children have grown from small to tall here. There’s a young pregnant woman who was hoping to make a home here for her soon-to-be child. We are a group of seniors, immigrants, people with disabilities and the working poor. We are all people of low incomes. Like me, they probably thought they were lucky to land a decent affordable apartment. There are people who have lived in this building 20 years or more. Our compassionate manager, who always asked me how I was doing, like the rest of us, is being put out of the building as well. We had found home. We hung pictures, placed furniture just so and made our spaces cozy and comfortable. Now we’ll have to dismantle it all. 

Our building used to be called Westcourt Manor, but it isn’t anymore. The awning was stripped of its name and address, leaving only a partial awning baring a gaping maw of fluorescent bulbs with lighting so bright it shines into the apartments across the street. The new owners (theM1group) so arrogant they apparently don’t care about the lives of those tenants either.

So I watched as those people took photos and made notes on clipboards. Awhile later we received word our building had been sold. Life went on but it was clear something suspicious was happening. I noticed the two giant trees suddenly had “protection fences” erected around them with placards citing 2 municipal bylaws that I now know have to do with protecting the trees during construction. A couple of suites became vacant and weren’t fixed or rented. The landscaping that was once so lovingly tended began to become neglected, the grass growing long and unruly branches of gangly shrubs reach for sun. Weeds are beginning to thrive and it all suffers from lack of water.

 When we were suddenly instructed to pay our rent to a numbered company, 322 Apartments inc., alarm bells went off and with good reason. We’ve became just another real estate acquisition and for us it signalled the beginning of the end. A little googling revealed that the new owner boasts an inventory of shiny new and very expensive freshly renovated properties. Nice if you can afford them, but none of us can. We simply can’t. We now live in a nameless building that’s slated for renoviction (or as they so nicely put it “eviction due to renovation”) because that’s what they do, and they’re proud of it.

This all happened in a matter of months. On June 3, 2017, a gloomy Saturday, I got a notice through my mail slot informing me that the new owners were just waiting on the city permits that will grant them the power to evict me from my home. They’ve already done just that to my neighbours upstairs. The other shoe has definitely dropped.

Talk about picking on the little guy. All of us are vulnerable tenants whose rights are being trampled upon. We’ve all been displaced with literally nowhere to go in the city we call home. Bureaucrats ushered this through with lightning fast speed, apparently rubber stamping this project through with little to no consideration for what it will do to the local community much less all of the individuals affected. This does not serve the greater good. 

My body vibrates with an unfettered rage. It’s wrong on so many levels. Where are the checks and balances? What happened to decency and humanity? We’ve all been scrambling to make some arrangements. There is a very real probability some of us will find themselves couch-surfing, homeless, until something comes along, and probably not in our community. We’re hoping to share information so that we can all help one another through this. That’s the way proper society works.

I’m sure more developers are eyeing up the plentiful stock of other affordable New Westminster buildings that just could use superficial sprucing up. These companies are not asking tenants to leave for a few months so we can come back at the same affordable rents. They could do renos around us, for us, but they don’t want low income tenants. They want tenants who will gladly pay the seemingly cheap “market” rents of New Westminster. Rents that have been pushed up into the stratospheric thanks to a real estate market allowed to spiral out of control. There is absolutely no calculation of the human cost nor thought given to the fact that low income tenants are being displaced so companies may profit in this way. 

How is it that in a city where change occurs at a much slower and considered pace that a solid building of 54 and truly affordable suites of rental stock are allowed to become unaffordable for the average resident of New West? 

With other developments it would appear the intent has to be clearly indicated to the community but for some reason this protocol is ignored in the case of a renoviction. It’s the dirty little secret that no one discovers until it can’t be hidden any longer; almost as if the aim of it is to catch the residents off guard. It smacks of an almost punitive nature. This practice was clearly on the City’s radar. After all this is a prescient and very real threat to the vulnerable in our city. It was only in 2016 a resolution was made to specifically address this issue and yet here it is, happening just like that. And back here at 322 it didn’t take long from the time of the sale for the first eviction notices to be issued. ABC,123 and easy peazy just like that it was done. 

ride

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i went on a small trip to visit family in the interior so that meant heading down to the storage locker and retrieving a suitcase. every time i do this i have to juggle around everything that’s in there including my bike. she’s a beauty, a baby blue cruiser with 7 speeds with wide handlebars and a nice wide comfortable saddle. it’s perfect for cruising and feeling the wind in your hair, which i’ve done maybe twice.

i bought it on a whim, in banff probably heady from the beauty of the scenery, which i’ve visited before in my youth. we were on the last leg of a transcanada drive, moving from Toronto to back Vancouver. I thought I needed it. it was on sale after all, and it cost a lot less than my last than my last one, which had been stolen years ago when I lived in Vancouver as the one before that. u-haul had been packed mostly with care, but the odds and sods not in boxes had sort of been chucked in a little haphazardly and had shifted during the journey, so the bike was perched precariously on top of all of it, all shiny and new.

when we moved into our first apartment in our new home in New Westminster that’s where it went as well. at some point a thief had rifled through all the lockers and the self-healing wheels were stolen and my boyfriend’s bike stolen all together. the police made a herculean effort to find those thieves, going so far as to dust my baby blue for prints. we reckoned that my bike wasn’t taken because of its distinctive nature, a small mercy. but it resided mostly in the storage locker, and when i moved it went directly into the new locker. part of me wanted to hang it and display it proudly, but there just wasn’t room for it in my tiny bachelor.

awhile ago I decided i needed to have fenders and a funky carry rack on it. who knows why but somewhere in my head the rationale is that it will make it more ridable in inclement weather and offer a place for me to carry my belongings, and shopping. i don’t know where this thinking came from but there’s a chance that i’ll never ride it again, given the problems with my balance, but there’s a part of me that’s optimistic that some day i’ll ride again. it’s more likely it will make more sense for me to surrender her to a new owner, but right now i am cruising in the morning sun with the wind on my face, the exhilaration energizing me.

sometimes a room is not a room

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i live directly across the street from an empty apartment. i didn’t realize this at first but after awhile i began to notice that the curtains were always drawn to a certain width, never more and never less.  i copped onto it fully when my brain’s wheedling compulsion for symmetry took hold. my imagination latched onto the fact that the gap was perhaps 18 inches to the left and 24 to the right of the latch of the sliding door. What was more practically important was that unless that person was oblivious to the blistering rays of the afternoon sun, or the obnoxious orange glare of the streetlights, surely those curtains would be closed from time to time. i had found myself curiously fascinated about what was clearly an empty room, but there were days when i was trapped on my sofa that this fiction i created around this static space became my saving grace.

soon i began to weave a variety of stories about why the apartment had been vacant so long, with the mundane being temporarily trumped for the horrific when someone mentioned (as a passing joke, i’m sure) that a murder had occurred in the suite. i even did a non-committal google search to satisfy this curiosity, but this explanation seemed too easy. another more fantastic notion my mind floated was that a person lived there but never came out of the bedroom. there had to be some reason and there wasn’t a day when I haven’t looked at that void and idly wondered.

just recently the configuration changed. i noticed a shape that hadn’t been there before. it wasn’t a shape that moved, so i knew it wasn’t a person, but a looming chunk of something had been moved into my theatre and it startled me. i wanted to know why it suddenly was that the appliances were being moved. surely the space had been sitting at the ready for those months and not left unpainted and uncleaned in the interim?

this morning the sliding door is thrown open wide and the curtains gone altogether, and it’s a stolid white stove that sits in the gap of the door. somehow i am disappointed at this development. as unsettling as i began to find  the curious view i know it will soon be gone. all i will see is sterile white curtains closed tightly against the sun and prying eyes and this saddens me.

 

A whole lot of nothing

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading of other people’s content–blogs, twitter feeds and Facebook profiles and I know I’m not doing a lot. my life is really really small. It seems negligible compared to others, but we don’t do that anymore, right? Just observing how the scope of my life has narrowed to this. I speak matter-of-factly, not to whine woe is me. I’m just saying. this is how it is.  I wanted to slap something into my blog. It’s shameful how many drafts have piled up, a bunch of littered words in a corner of my life. Even this one has aged by a week, but it is going up, dated when I first began it. An acquaintance endorsed me for blogging so I better snap to it.

However, My coke bottle prism glasses are no match for doubled text and images that swirl and jump. My time on the computer is done for now, so the relatively unadulterated and aged post….

Right now I’m sitting on my sofa watching the fan oscillate back forth back and forth it blows what feels like cool air, but it doesn’t bring cooler air into my apartment it just feels that way since it’s muggy outside.

There’s an American Eagle hat Hanging off of it that was given to me by a friend and I love it because it’s red and has notches at the
temples but I never wear it because I don’t think I look good in a baseball cap. it obscures my entire face. it seems I am not meant for baseball caps I guess but I love it anyway. I am amazed that its still there because it’s not hanging off a hook it’s simply grasping it somehow. small things…

I’m trying to write this with speaking because I can’t really see my screen all that well and my hands shake. My computer is out of the question right now, and today is what I’d call a not very good day. I’ll have to go back and correct later and I can do that but it requires a great deal of effort. It’s exhausting. This is the new small life that I have. Defined by what my body will allow me to do. I’m still looking to find if there is an app that will read everything to me, and will effectively allow me to read into it. I said not just any app, an effective app. Still looking.

galloway’s got it

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trust galloway's to have those silly mung beans i searched for high and low. not only that there's so much more. i've walked past the modest little shop a few times and made as many mental notes to go inside some time. the first time i noticed it i was awash with a with a mixture of surprise and elation. a lot of these small one-offs have been forced to make way for mammoth "super stores", which i often don't find so whoop-de-doo-super in their selection. oh sure, there's a bulk food section in the save-on foods just down the way, but it is decidedly safe and middle of the road, and doesn't dabble in exotics like….mung beans. 

i walked through the door like i was  revisiting the home of an old but not so familiar friend. i revelled in the offerings i discovered in the narrow aisles. i smile and scan the shelves in the diminutive store, looking for nothing in particular, drinking in what i see. they are packed with all manner of everything a person could ever want, bulk, dried and otherwise.  the selection of legumes at the end of my reach on the top shelf is vast. the term dizzying array comes to mind. so overwhelmed am i when presented with the plethora of unusual and inexpensive i buy a lot more than just the humble mung beans. i pack my shopping bag and leave with my bounty, feeling immensely satisfied.

later, when i proudly unpack my finds i think to myself i was so giddy in the discovery of the lowly legume, i chose wrong one. i got green, the recipe calls for yellow. is there a difference? i don't know. i surfed looking for an answer. still unclear. no definitive answer. i surrender to the notion that this is something i will not know without some dedicated research. and what of it. let's just give it a whirl with the green and hope for a happy accident.

rules of the kitchen

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had a spectacular failure in the kitchen last night. after 5 hours of simmering and some amount of anticipation, the meal turned out practically inedible. i was skeptical from the get-go. i'm not much for parts of animals that one would imagine left on the abattoir floor, but i insisted on following the recipe just so, even though we know how that can turn out. and then we had that old debate again about doneness of the veggies–namely the potatoes–i prefer my vegetables firm, my pasta al dente. he perceives this as raw. i beg to differ. when i express this opinion it causes a little friction. there's other rules. they are the kind that originate in childhood and haven't wavered since then.

it's not always like this. my potroast kills, not in the literal, of course, i've loads of successes i've got some serious winners in my repertoire that make for two happy diners. it's forays into the great unknown that cause trepidation; wondering if or if not the dish will turn out as promised.

we've run through all of the last 14 and now i'm planning the menu for next couple weeks. there's some tried and true and some new. i asked for some input and got none. it's stressful and a lot of work. once i cull the great www and a few cookbooks for tasty sounding meals, i then compile the grocery list. then i have to decide where i'm going to do the shop and whether it will be delivered or whether it is something i will do in parts, with granny cart in town. either way, it is an involved process. there is always some conversation about the cost of things even though i aim to make it as thrifty a venture as possible.

to be honest, i would prefer to eat completely differently, a lot more simply. a diet comprised of a lot less meat and more legumes and so on. at the moment this would only mean a lot more work for me. still, chef d. is seriously contemplating it.

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