Hollyburn vs. Gay Man: Round Two

By Shauna Lewis
Xtra West

A gay man and an elderly woman with ovarian cancer are the latest targets in a wave of evictions still affecting Vancouver’s West End.

The tenants have filed for arbitration against Hollyburn Properties but say they’re concerned about the area’s diversity and history if these evictions continue.

“Young gay people gravitate toward the West End because they see it as their community,” says recently evicted Emerald Terrace resident Andrew Simmons.

Simmons, who is gay and has lived at 2045 Nelson St for eight years, says he has been given notice to vacate his apartment because the landlords want to rent it to an on-site manager.

Simmons alleges there are at least seven other vacant suites that can be used for that purpose.

This is the second time Simmons has been targeted for eviction. Last year, Hollyburn attempted to turf him and several other tenants in the building for owning pets. The tenants sought arbitration and won.

Simmons is not surprised he is being targeted again.

“I’m being targeted because I was the ringleader fighting the pet eviction last time,” he alleges.

Simmons says he and his neighbours recently received word that Hollyburn was planning to renovate their building.

When he sought more information, he says Hollyburn was not forthcoming. So he filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau on April 29.

He received his eviction notice later that day.

“It looks like retaliation,” Simmons says.

“This is ruining our lives,” says 82-year-old Lynn Stevens. “I just got the eviction notice and I’ve just been in shock.”

Stevens was told she must leave her home of 41 years because Hollyburn plans to rent her apartment to a building manager as well.

That’s just an excuse, she alleges. “Really [the eviction] is because I’m paying the lowest rent.”

Stevens says she was presented with a notice to evict April 27 and now has until the end of June to leave her home.

“It makes absolutely no sense to evict someone for the use of their suite when there are suites available,” says Christine Ackerman of the West End Renters Association. “It’s a pure and simple money grab.”

Hollyburn’s website is currently advertising one-bedroom suites for $1,200 and two bedrooms for $2,200.

Xtra’s calls to Hollyburn were not returned prior to pres time.

But Hollyburn’s general manager, Allan Wasel, told the Vancouver Sun it was “purely a business decision.”

“It made the most sense to put our new resident manager and resident managers in training in the suites that rent for the lowest price,” he said.

According to the Sun, Wasel also said the tenants had requested “on-site management support” and that other units were unavailable because they’re being upgraded.

NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says the latest evictions solidify the need for Liberal legislative reform.

“This [newest fight] ensures that we continue the fight for change in the Residential Tenancy Act,” says Chandra Herbert, who represents Vancouver-West End.

He says he plans to look at legislation to see if there are private members’ bills that could counteract evicting a tenant from a specific suite when there are other available suites in the building.

The West End is in jeopardy if the laws remain unbalanced, he adds.

“It’s the people that make it [the West End] so great, and it’s the history – specifically a queer history – which continues to make it such a fabulous place for the GLBT community to live,” he says. “So we want to keep it that way.”

The Residential Tenancy Branch has scheduled an arbitration hearing for the Emerald Terrace tenants on June 23.

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