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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.

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. 

When necessity is the mother of…

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I am being pushed into activism. I’m OK with it, but I confess it’s never been a “me” thing. I have always thought the little guy needed more of a voice but I only used to watch in chagrin when yet again as Goliath put the screws to David. There seemed to be a torpor within our government and a social collective that seemed to stand idly by time and time again. There’d be that “treehugger” that would literally stick neck and limb out to voice what no one else would. Government would use their political might to shut that voice up but didn’t seem to do anything to protect the rights of those and that. 

It seems it all comes to the bottom line. Whatever happened to building a citizenry and society that included all of those and treated all of those equally? We’re not even going to break it down into particular issues. We all know what they are. Rights are being clawed away or denied outright still and always and nothing ever gets done. Do it the right and polite way and no one even notices. Make a stink and people dismiss you. So dear citizenry, how do you suggest a person proceeds. There is so much riding on everything, our heads our swivelling trying to keep up, but that’s because it was allowed to devolve into a society where the almighty buck really does rule the day.

I can’t sit idly by anymore. I am going to pick up the mantle and run as fast as I can with what I have. It may not be much. I’m a follower not a leader. I don’t even know how activism is done. Is that ridiculous or what? I’ve grown a bit of a voice lately. Sure, it’s mostly beaking off on #twitter or a strongly worded email trying to get a product replaced but so what, that’s a start right? Call me a shit disturber, call me a harpy, call me what you will. I am not going away. 

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