Chris Nelson Talks About Rent Hikes at Seafield Apartments

By Matthew Burrows

Georgia Straight

A West End landlord seeking to jack up rents says he will consider negotiating with his tenants face to face at a March 11 dispute-resolution hearing rather than via conference call.

“If that is everyone’s wish, then we would consider it,” Chris Nelson, co-owner of the Seafield Apartments, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

Ground-floor tenant Brian Broster, who lives with partner Ross Waring, told the Straight that the couple face an $881 rent increase for their two-bedroom apartment in the building at 1436 Pendrell Street. That would take their total monthly rent up to $2,255 from $1,374.

“We have hard-of-hearing people, and they are not going to be able to follow the conversation [via conference call],” Broster told the Straight.

He added that long-term tenants Roland and Mary McFall are 83 and 92, respectively. The conference call was set up by the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch.

“They [landlords] likely will refuse [the switch], because it is to their advantage to have it over the phone, because people get interrupted, people get cut off, and it’s typically the group of tenants that get cut off,” Broster added. “The RTO [residential tenancy office] cannot make that independent decision to go live in a live room; they have to get the landlords’ approval on the request.”

Nelson reiterated that Broster should contact him.

“He’s got my phone number, but yes, if that is how it [hearing protocol] works, I’ve never been through that before,” Nelson added.

This possible concession would be a small victory for the embattled Seafield tenants, who were served notice of the rental hikes on January 14, when Nelson and fellow Seafield owner Jason Gordon, of Gordon Nelson Investments Inc., slipped information packages under their doors. Laundry machines have also been replaced and the rates increased to $2.75 per load per machine (from $1.50), according to tenant Melissa Mewdell.

It all comes at a bad time for Seafield resident Dana Crudo, who is pregnant and due February 1. She still wants a home birth, she said, though her home life is more and more up in the air. Dana and husband Bobby Crudo face an increase of $772, to $2,222 a month, for their two-bedroom suite.

“Chris Nelson says this is purely business,” Crudo told the Straight. “He rents too. If he had a landlord that pulled the same stuff on him, how would that change his life? I don’t know if that would just be business as usual.”

Gordon Nelson Investments is making use of the Residential Tenancy Act to bring rents in line with other properties in the area [through a geographic rent increase], Nelson claimed. He said he pays $2,700 for a two-bedroom suite at the corner of Nelson and Bute streets, where he lives with his family, which includes one young daughter. However, he remained unapologetic about the Crudos’ plight as they approach their own parenthood.

“Do you know how large their unit is?” he asked. “It’s 1,250 square feet. It’s one of the biggest two-bedrooms in the West End. It is absolutely huge. Most two-bedrooms are about 800 to 900 square feet. They have a large unit, and when you look at it on a price-per-square-foot basis, it works out to about $1.10 a square foot. We looked at 129 comparable apartments, and the average is $2.10 a square foot. We’ve applied to bring their rent up to, I believe, $1.85 a square foot. I would encourage you to look at price per square foot.”

When asked about the heritage aspects and the fact that the building has a community feeling within its walls, Nelson remained resolute.

“Are you asking me to subsidize their rent because it’s a nice community and it’s an old building?”

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8 Responses to “Chris Nelson Talks About Rent Hikes at Seafield Apartments”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I find it really interesting that Chris Nelson doesn’t discuss his own square footage in his statement to the Georgia Straight. It’s my understanding that he lives in a large penthouse in a rental apartment building, with a very nice view.

  2. Diana Morency Says:

    Chris Nelson, I think you’re an idiot! No one is asking you to subsidize their rents! You are increasing the rents to such impossible levels whereby the existing tenants cannot pay that rent. If those loop holes in the tenancy act were not there we would not be having this conversation. I am so mad and so damn angry! We have the right to exist here because we ALL have value. All these years the tenants of this building having been paying their rent which is considered above average in the rest of the country, but I think you have decided that it is worth more. This is not Manhatten New York nor do we have the salaries to reflect that. We will fight tooth and nail!

  3. Diana Morency Says:

    Gordon Nelson you have the intelligence of a gnat. I listened to your interview on CBC Radio and I am concerned with your myopic view of the neighborhood I live in.

    You commented I LOVE THE WEST END – what do you love about it? Do you see the neighborhood as an opportunity to be mined for all its resources to support your ambition? Or do you see it as a vibrant community with diversity, racial backgrounds, and varied economic stratification levels.

    Our community is made up of a diverse range of people from all backgrounds, cultures, and social strata. Is your vision of the West End only going to be an enclave for the rich and privileged? You said you had a Doctor, Engineer and an Architect living in your building and therefore could afford your higher rental costs – does this mean so should everyone else??? These people represent only a small portion of any society and in the West End we have viable social mix that is unique.

    What would happen if your vision of the West End be fulfilled? Most of the small business that exist today will be gone; replaced by boutique style business enterprises. The social fabric such as schools, clinics, rec centers, would no longer be necessary in the monolithic society that you will be contributing to I would venture to say that 4/5ths of the businesses that exist today would vanish because they would no longer have the clientele that they have today.

    Have you thought of the consequences of changing the demographic make-up of this city?? There will be a HUGE wave of baby boomers set to retire in this decade – will they all have to leave the West End because you want to maximize your “so called right to profit. Where do these people go? Is this someone else’s problem? Will you take responsibility for the fate of these people?

    The people that live here have MEANING, VALUE, and we are mad as hell. We are your fellow human beings with fundamental rights to shelter and the right to exist! We are here and we have full and productive lives that you will steal from us so that you can service the financial bottom line of your enterprise. What gives you the right to cause undue stress, take away our sense of space, connections, security, so that you fulfill your dreams of a Manhattan style neighborhood? There are people who do not want to see the social fabric of this neighborhood changed. They seek quiet and a calm place to call home.

    I don’t have all the answers on how to resolve these issues. But what is happening now is not working either. People’s sense of being, sense of place, sense of belonging have been violated and what is most sacred is HUMAN DIGNITY which you sir have stolen from these people.
    Your rental market is not an accurate reflection of what people pay in rent nor what they can realistically afford. Based on your calculations Council Members of the City of Vancouver based on their annual salary could not afford to rent in any of your units at 30% of total income as set by CHMC. . Where are you getting your stats from? I visited Craigs list and it would be interesting to verify if all those rental units are actually being rented at the price indicated?

  4. Olivia Flynn-Gomez Says:

    Mr. Nelson asks rhetorically, ““Are you asking me to subsidize their rent because it’s a nice community and it’s an old building?” GNI overpaid for their properties in a falling market, they clearly don’t understand the rental business, and they’re probably hurting from the credit crunch. The question I would like to ask Mr. Neson and his partner is, “Why should the residents of your buildings subsidize your poor business plan, inadequate financing, and lousy timing?”

  5. NonBiased Says:

    Interesting article and interesting responses..Why should somebody pay more if they are paying less. Why should everybody else in westend pay certain amount of rent and these people should not..Simple answer..They are special…My understanding is that people who rent do not is simple as that…By the looks of these articles everybody writing them is biased..Move to the suburbs and buy a condo..your monthlu mortgage will be 1500-1700 and YOU WILL BE HOME OWNERS…Living downtown is a luxory and if everybody else is paying for that luxory(including myself- $1700 for 580 sq foot apartment) you should pay too. I do not symphatize with these tenants or the landlord but i will make a prediction where the landlord wins…Why? In this case he is right..People are asking if Chris Nelson would do the same in case his landlord increases his rent…good question except the fact he is paying 2700 for his 2-bedroom unit in west end…Also if one of these tenants was a landlord would they do the same…come on people grow up.
    p.s I assume these people are against the olimpycs too..hahahaha
    pp.s Chris Nelson should evict these tenants and put homeless people in.

  6. DMorency Says:

    In response to Non-Biased…

    It is painful to read your comment….Just a few short years ago in the mid to late 90’s landlords were begging people to move into their rentals by offering last months rent free, help with moving costs and so on. Over the years when the housing market became impossible for people earning $45,000.00 to $55,000.00 were priced out of the market to own ANYTHING. People just like you who bought and tried to flip their homes to make huge profits now want to maximise their profit margin at the expense of those of us who just don’t have all the money you have…

    Fact one: If not for the loops holes created by the BC Government in 2004 this debate, this discussion and the fight by the tenants that live in this building and others, we would not be having to do this. If people like Gordon Nelson and others like him were of good moral character, a strong ethical sense of right & wrong, we would not be here having to fight to keep our lives. This is not just about money and the right for people like you and GNI – it also is battle for our right exist because we matter… Its a total lack of respect by those people who proport to be of higher value because of their individual wealth, more deserving of consideraiton due to their economic status in the world.

    Keep the fight up SEAFIELD!!! Lets organize and if anyone out in internet world reading this…Lets have fund raiser in the summer to make the world aware of the evictions, shame the BC Government into action, and raise money to help people fight the evictions via hiring a lawyer on retainer to represent the individual tenant. I will get involved and do all I can to protect our right to exist and protect our lives. Lets do a huge benefit concert – get local artists to donate their time etc. Anyone interested in meeting about this?????

  7. Derek Richer Says:

    Chris Nelson is surely comparing “apples with oranges” in his rationale for inflating rents at Seafield Apartments by up to 73 percent. It is highly surprising that someone with a commerce degree and banking experience should lack rudimentary knowledge about economics and the rental market. His time as an internet gambling executive has perhaps left him addicted to exorbitant profit-taking. Square footage of suites does not come so directly into the rental price equation as Chris Nelson would have us believe. As far as demand goes, most people these days show preference for modern kitchen appliances (Sub-zero, Miele etc), granite countertops, and premium cabinetry. The same goes for bathrooms, where marble, Kohler taps, spa tubs, and fancy showers are all the rage. However, Seafield Apartments lacks all of these features; the building dates from 1931 and the fittings are old. Would the market bear prices upwards of $2500 for ageing suites with older fittings? Moreover, would people be willing to pay premium rents for a building without an elevator, a sauna, a pool or exercise room? There are numerous places in the West End where people can rent apartments with luxury fittings and amenities at a lower price than that dictated by the skewed sense of market economics promulgated by Chris Nelson.

    Another factor overlooked by Nelson is the effect of the property slump on property investors who are now unable to sell their downtown condos. To avoid foreclosure, many of these investors are now renting their condos at reduced rates. Thus, the supply of downtown condos will continue to grow, and will sharply exceed demand. Elementary economics dictate that when supply exceeds demand, the price is sure to drop. (hint, hint Nelson, perhaps you should re-read your school notes, if you took any.).

    It seems unusual that Chris Nelson would be renting a penthouse for $2700 per month instead of purchasing one; after all, his company, Gordon Nelson, has recently purchased more than $20-million worth of apartment buildings in the West End. Could it be that Gordon Nelson is fronting someone else’s capital? The mystery grows.

    One thing that is more than apparent, however, is the rampant greed and abusive bullying exhibited by Gordon Nelson. Threats of renoviction or outrageous rent increases are nothing more than harsh strong-arm tactics designed to break the resolve and spirit of tenants. Such contemptuous conduct, under the guise of “market” economics, is symptomatic of a spreading plague in Vancouver. Why would the provincial government rewrite the Residential Tenancy Act and thereby introduce loopholes for the benefit of abusive rascals? The inclusion of the geographical averaging loophole and the failure of the government to solve the pressing problem of security deposit theft by bad landlords suggests that the provincial government is enabling the unethical conduct of rogues in our midst. Whatever happened to the sound Canadian tradition of “peace, order and good government?”

    I have some personal experience with the sort of greedy and unethical personality that is currently inflicting harm on the Seafielders. The purchasing broker in the 1436 Pendrell transaction of last summer is Terry Harding, of NAI Commercial, who also happens to be my former landlord. This real estate broker and property manager willfully breached several sections of the Residential Tenancy Act: not contacting me for a joint inspection of my former suite, not providing me with a written copy of the inspection report, illegally deducting $60 from my security deposit for “cleaning” (even though the photographs of my former suite show it to be thoroughly cleaned), and failing to pay $93.93 of interest. One of my witnesses, and a former tenant, had the same stunt pulled on him. With my evidence and witness testimony, I was able to blow Terry Harding and his compulsive lying out of the water at a RTB dispute hearing on November 20th. Despite being presented with a payment order for $393.93, Terry Harding has continued to flout the law and all decency by refusing to pay a penny. What is particularly pathetic about my case is that Terry Harding claims to sell $20-million worth of apartments a year, yet is ready to steal paltry amounts from former tenants. Real estate brokers are supposed to conduct themselves in a highly professional and ethical manner.

    The mantra of market economics being spouted by Gordon Nelson is a flimsy shield for impoverished emotions and ethics. Such minds operate under the false premise that riches ensure superiority, and elevate them above all reproach or limit. Yet they fail to realise the dignity and merit of noblesse oblige. With wealth comes responsibility. True riches encompass more than just a financial ledger. Where would landlords be without responsible tenants to afford them a comfortable living? Word soon travels in the rental market, and people will be loathe to lodge under the shadow of bad landlords.

    The whole scenario reminds me of an old Irish saying: “Put a beggar on horseback and he’ll ride straight to hell.”

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