We have lived in the West End for just over three years and we’ve really come to love our little neighbourhood. As soon as you stroll one block in from Davie or Robson the sounds of rushing traffic and trolley buses re-energizing turn to birds chirping, bicycle bells and lawn mowers. Deciduous trees act as canopies in the summer months providing cooling shade, while in the fall their frying pans-sized leaves tumble to earth, soaking up the rain before being raked away by vigilant gardeners.
When you live in the West End there are a few things you come to accept such as Fireworks nights in August, skunks, and the sound of behemoth fire engines rolling past your window while you’re trying to do a podcast. You also pay attention to notices that are frequently posted to telephone poles about tenant and community meetings (from the West End Residents Association or Renters at Risk).
With so many older buildings (built 1960s) mixed with towers, walk-ups, and heritage structures, the neighbourhood is a real melting pot, and an obvious target for developers. However, with renters making up 82% of residents in the West End, changing, renovating, demolishing, rebuilding, and introducing mortgages and condos into this area is a bit tricky, and the way it’s been handled so far is the cause of much outrage, alarm, and disbelief.
In some cases building owners would like to raise (even double) rent for current tenants in order to renovate, tenants may be given ultimatums (to pay up or ship out) and in other cases, they are simply asked to vacate.
There’s an apartment block along our route to the grocery store that was emptied out last year and renovated. By renovated I mean they added a fresh coat of paint, new windows, and little gates where the small yards used to be. There have been signs up on the corner to buy into this place (instead of rent) for so long now, and I still have not seen one person move in.
A case that has been getting much attention in the news (although this sort of thing has been going on for years) is the struggle over at the Seafield Apartments – near Pendrell and Nicola. I received an email from a resident a few weeks ago who spoke of their threat of mass eviction and sent along a link to their website. They have banded together to get their story out in the news, and they’ve started sharing their cause online with Building at Risk.
The Seafield group has also taken to supporting other apartments in danger, including showing up in protest at 1209 Jervis Street where eviction notices were issued last winter.
The rally gave a voice to renters who are concerned about the lack of tenant protection in the Residential Tenancy Act. Evictions for renovations, voluntary rent increases, geographic market increases and fixed-term leases are all loopholes employed by corporate landlords to get around current rent control legislation (3.7 percent increase/year).
At the rally, members of Renters at Risk asked politicians to make changes to the Tenancy legislation to protect renters, including the enactment of the Right of First Refusal. [Seafield]
Housing for any, many and all has been a huge topic throughout the Federal Elections in this region, as well as the recent by-elections and the upcoming civic elections – this has been taking place across the city in various forms for years.
The Seafield’s website (built with WordPress) is full of personal stories, articles, blog posts, links to mainstream coverage and various data surrounding renters’ rights. It adds a very real voice for these buildings and all of those who call them home.