Expectant Mom Faces Huge Rent Hike from Gordon Nelson Investments

By: Jon Ferry

The Province

Does capitalism always have to be on a collision course with compassion?

It seems so in Vancouver’s West End, where tenants in yet another apartment building have learned that bottom-line-minded landlords can charge pretty much what they can get away with.

Making ends meet these days is stressful enough. But try being nine months’ pregnant and getting hit with the prospect of a monthly rent increase of 53 per cent.

Yes, that was the news expectant mom Dana Crudo received last week when her landlords delivered a package telling her they’d be applying for a $772 hike in the rent for her two-bedroom suite — raising it from $1,450 to $2,222 a month.

“I’m due any day,” Crudo, 34, told me from Seafield Apartments on Pendrell Street. “It would be nicer to feel a little more stable at home.”

You’re not kidding.

Tenants in a dozen other suites have been warned they can expect hikes of as much as 73 per cent, if landlord Gordon Nelson Investments‘ application to the B.C. Residential Tenancy Branch is successful. A hearing date has been set for March.

According to the tenants, they were a happy lot until Gordon Nelson took over the heritage building at the end of last July.

“Our previous owners took such good care of the building,” Crudo noted. But since then, the new landlords have made no secret of the fact that they want to squeeze more cash out of the place. They plan to argue before the tenancy branch they need these huge hikes to bring the rents in line with those in other local buildings they’ve surveyed.

Gordon Nelson partner Chris Nelson told me yesterday his company brought the application for an “above-the-guideline rent increase” because the Seafield tenants continue to enjoy comparatively large suites with rents that are artificially low.

“They pay 50 per cent of market for rent,” said Nelson, a former investment banker. “So, they pay half of what everyone else in the West End would pay and 60 per cent of what Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation calculates people to pay in the West End.”

But doesn’t raising the rents so much now demonstrate a singular lack of compassion?

“Obviously, we’re suffering the same hard economic times as everyone else. All of us are competing in the world right now to make a go of it,” Nelson replied, adding his company simply believes people should pay fair market value for all the goods and services they consume.

It’s a classic capitalist’s argument. And it’s one used tirelessly by high-flying executives and senior public officials who employ comparative surveys to justify their pay packages.

But these are people’s homes we’re talking about. And my view is that just because you live in a supposedly free-market system, doesn’t mean you should bulldoze those who stand in your way.

I have not been able to reach Housing Minister Rich Coleman. However, Vancouver-Burrard NDP MLA Spencer Herbert, NDP housing critic Diane Thorne (Coquitlam-Maillardville) and Vision Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson have all said they’ve been busy urging Victoria to change the Residential Tenancy Act to clamp down on “renovictions” and the kind of “geographic” rent hikes proposed at Seafield Apartments.

This should not be a partisan issue. What these and other tenants are facing is wrong and needs to stop.

Crudo’s baby is due Feb. 1. Victoria must step in now to make the rental world a better place for her — and for generations to come.

jferry@theprovince.com

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