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Burnaby residents facing eviction say city’s compensation plan is not enough

Burnaby renters facing eviction as condo towers replace their cheap low-rise apartments are being told they won’t get city-required compensation…

By Simran Singh , in City , on December 2, 2015

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Rick Erb (left) of ACORN stands outside Burnaby city hall with supporters protesting the demolition of affordable rental housing in Burnaby’s Maywood neighbourhood.

Burnaby renters facing eviction as condo towers replace their cheap low-rise apartments are being told they won’t get city-required compensation from the owner if they move out too soon.

Instead, some tenants in Burnaby’s Metrotown-Maywood area have been notified by developers that they will only receive compensation guaranteed under a city policy if they stay in their apartment until a few weeks before it will be torn down.

“I only have one month to look for place. It is very difficult to look for place in one month,” said Sherry Chen who lives in one-bedroom apartment she shares with her husband and two children on 6650 Dunblane Ave. She must leave her apartment by the end of February because it is set for demolition.

But even though Chen knows her eviction date, she says it is difficult to look for a new place to live because she must stay in her apartment until the end of December to be eligible for compensation through the City of Burnaby’s tenant assistance policy.

In July, Westwood Ridge Development Corporation sent a letter to Chen, notifying her that she would be eligible for an estimated compensation of $2,740 under the policy.

However, the notice stated that the “incentive is not applicable if you leave prior to receiving your formal notice to end tenancy, which is anticipated to be served in late December [2015] and will require you to vacate by February 29, 2016.”

Chen has decided to stay in her building until she gets her formal eviction notice, so she can receive compensation. But she says this gives her one month to find a new apartment.

This three-story walk up on Silver Avenue is one of many buildings in Burnaby’s Metrotown area that will be demolished and replaced with a high-rise apartment
This three-storey walk up on Silver Avenue is one of many buildings in Burnaby’s Metrotown area that will be demolished and replaced with a high-rise apartment.

Although the city’s policy spells out the fact that residents should get compensation, it does not specify if residents have to remain in their units until they receive a formal notice qualifying for the reimbursement.

“I think the city don’t care about us,” Chen said, adding: “It is just completely [like] my voice, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t count.”

Burnaby city  CounColleen Jordan, acknowledges the concerns of tenants such as Sherry, who want compensation but feel restrained because they have to stay in their apartments until a set date.

“That is something we definitely want to clarify with our planning department,” Jordan said. “I don’t think it’s right that you have stay until the last day in order to get [compensation]. So there needs to be accommodation there that’s reasonable.”

But low-income renters’ advocacy groups such as the  Metrotown Residents’ AssociationACORN, and Social Housing B.C. believe the compensation muddle is just the latest example of how the city has responded poorly overall to the concerns of residents facing evictions in the Metrotown area.

“There appears very little, if anything done to help them,” explained Rick Erb, the co-chair of ACORN’s Burnaby chapter. “They are punished this way and displaced and it’s not right, it’s not a Canadian thing to do.”

These groups and concerned residents gathered at a public hearing at Burnaby city hall on Nov.24 to protest  the demolition and rezoning of four additional low-income apartments in Metrotown’s Maywood neighbourhood, which is defined by the borders of Imperial Street, Central Boulevard, and Willington and Beresford Street.

According to Burnaby’s latest major development projects plan, there are four condo towers currently under construction in the Maywood neighbourhood.

“It’s a social problem,” said Chen. “In the Metrotown area, there used to be plenty rental apartments, five years ago, when I first came here … but now they are going to be tear down. None of them [are] left.”