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Victoria council asks developer to reconsider evictions

Apr 28 2012

Victoria city council wants the developer of Quadra Villa to reconsider a decision to evict tenants from the low-rent, 64-unit complex during renovations.

“We acknowledge the limitations of the city’s powers, but this sends an important message that we don’t support the loss of affordable housing,” said Coun. Ben Isitt. The motion, introduced by Isitt, passed five votes to three on Thursday.

The evictions, which mean tenants have to be out by the end of June, have come as a shock to tenants and councillors as original plans allowed tenants to stay during renovations, Isitt said.

“It’s a 180-degree turn,” he said. “If the first plan is not feasible, could one part of the townhouse be redeveloped at a time to limit the number of displaced families?”

However, David Fullbrook of League Capital Partners said it would not be safe or financially viable for tenants to remain during work that includes replacing plumbing and electrical systems and remediating subsiding soil under the complex.

“It’s not feasible from the life/safety perspective,” he said, adding it would also push the cost of renovations higher.

The complex looks down-at-heel and has hazards such as rotting decks, cracked walkways and water seeping into units from drains and windows, Fullbrook said.

The renovation means the units would again be viable as rentals — although, with the exception of five subsidized units, the rent would be higher than the $650 to $750 many tenants pay now.

Although there are 64 two- and three-bedroom units, the evictions do not mean 64 families are searching for new homes, Fullbrook said.

Leases have been limited since League bought the property last June, which means 18 units are vacant or have fixed-term tenancies that are about to expire, he said.

Fullbrook will meet with Isitt and Mayor Dean Fortin next week to explain the options being offered to tenants.

“There’s a historically high vacancy rate and part of our thinking was to time it so we could take advantage of the rental market,” he said.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. puts the vacancy rate in Greater Victoria at 2.1 per cent, but Rob Hunter of Devon Properties, to which tenants are being referred, said he believes the real vacancy rate is between six and seven per cent.

Russ Godfrey of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre said that if the tenants decide to fight the evictions, the Residential Tenancy Branch must consider their point of view.

“But this is not cosmetic renovations. This building is probably at the end of its useful life. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Godfrey said.

“The real problem here is the lack of affordable housing. Where are these people going to go?”

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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