West End tenants vow to fight renovictions

By Andy Ivens
The Province

Tenants in a West End apartment building are vowing to fight the mass eviction notices they received from their landlord, which they have labelled “renovictions.”

But Jason Gordon, co-owner of Gordon Nelson Investments Inc. (GNI), says his company needs to retrofit the 79-year-old building because its electrical system is shot and the building needs to be more energy-efficient.

“The intended renovations absolutely do not require vacant suites,” said Ross Waring, who has rented an apartment at Seafield Apartments, in the 1400-block of Pendrell Street, for 17 years.

Waring told a press conference on Sunday that the eviction notices came 10 days after a two-year battle with GNI over drastic rent increases was settled in B.C. Supreme Court in their favour.

“We won that battle and now they attack us with another cheap tactic,” said Waring, who plans to appeal his eviction notice.

“There is no justifiable need for a single eviction.”

Dana Crudo is four months pregnant with her second child and doesn’t want to move.

“We have an amazing community, but it’s a complete uphill battle,” she said, choking back tears.

She pays $1,450 for her 1,100-square-foot apartment.

Mayor Gregor Robertson came to support the Seafield tenants’ “rights and the rights of renters throughout Vancouver who are threatened with renovictions and are victims to loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act,” he said.

“Renters lose their homes here all to often. The province needs to close the loopholes.

“We’re not able to protect the renters the way we should without flouting the laws,” said the mayor.

“The majority of the city rents and we need to pull together and advocate for change in the near term.”

Spencer Chandra Herbert, the New Democrat MLA for the West End, said, “The law definitely needs to change.

“The law is not meant to be used just to drive people out, it’s meant to be used [to make needed renovations] when the building is about to crumble.”

That’s how Gordon sees the old heritage building.

“The building has “old fuses, no power. If two or three appliances are used, the residents short out,” said Gordon.

“B.C. Hydro said it’s not a healthy environment.”

Gordon said his company is going to spend $600,000 to $900,000 to improve the 14 units.

“There’s [an average of] $5,000 on the table for 10 of the 11 suites [that received eviction notices] as incentive, because we’re ending their tenancy,” said Gordon.

Rollie McFall, an 85-year-old resident who is battling cancer, has been offered $5,000 and tenancy in a new apartment in a recently renovated Gordon Nelson building a few blocks away at the same rent, said Gordon.

“It’s a ridiculous cost to us, roughly $5,000 a year,” said Gordon.

He said the offers to the renters who have received eviction notices are on the table until Friday.

“We make stylish, energy-efficient renovations,” said Gordon.

“My partner, Chris Nelson, is on the city of Vancouver’s green building retrofit strategy and leadership committee.

“It’s a social challenge [when] individuals are displaced. But we’ve offered to let them come back, and in this case, we’ve offered them lots of money for their pain and suffering.”

Gordon said rent controls have discouraged developers from building new rental properties, creating a shortage.

“The West End has had nothing built and that’s why these challenges are happening there,” he said.

Gordon said his company met with the tenants to try to work out a deal for them to buy the building and turn it into a co-op.

“We offered to loan them $200,000 to make that happen, but the deal went to city council and in an in-camera meeting it was turned down,” said Gordon.



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