A small group of tenants and their supporters gathered in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge on Tuesday afternoon to protest pressure tactics being used by new owners to rid the building of low-income renters.
The ralliers carried colourful signs, and gave a short press conference where they expressed frustration at the building’s new owners.
The three-story building was bought by the West Vancouver private investment firm Columbia Wealth Investments in September of 2020.
Resident Heather Bigcharles, who helped organize the gathering, said it is clear the owners are trying to get the tenants out of their suites.
“They’re making up violations, and giving [tenants] as many violation [notices] as they can to intimidate and scare them,” she said.
“I’m afraid of getting kicked out myself – I’ve gotten violations for ridiculous things such as painting my unit, when it was done prior to them taking over the building.”
“They want everybody out, so they can raise the rent,” she continued.
“A lot of [the seniors who live here] have been grandfathered in, so they’re not paying much, and they can’t afford much.
“Myself, I can’t afford much either, being on disability.”
Bigcharles was one of four tenants who voiced their discontent with the building’s new management.
Joyce Lachance spoke on behalf of her son Curtis, who has been living at Cityviews Village in a bachelor apartment for 10 years.
He is living with a disability and his rent – which is set at $618 per month – is paid directly through welfare, she explained.
In October and November there was a mix-up with the payment of his rent, when the new owners took possession of the building. His welfare provider was not made aware of the change.
Lachance discovered her son had been served a notice of dispute resolution proceeding – direct request on Nov. 20.
She said she had no idea there was an issue with rent. She went straight to the welfare office, discovered the issue, had two new cheques issued, and hand delivered them to the building manager on Nov. 26.
Lachance said they were deposited.
But she found that in December Curtis was served with an order of possession over failure to pay rent, signifying he was to be evicted.
She said she feels as if her son has been taken advantage of, because he has a disability.
“He has been given all types of paperwork to fill in. I think they just want him out, so they can fix up the suite and let it out for higher rent,” Lachance said.
“I think they should back off, and let these people live here at the price they’re paying.”
Listen Chen, spokesperson for Red Braid Alliance, agreed with Lachance.
“The reason the landlord wants to get people out by any means necessary is because any time a tenant leaves, that’s a windfall for a landlord, whether or not it happened through a legal eviction or through intimidation,” Chen said.
“That’s the only way landlords can raise rents above the already-too-high permittable rent increase set by the B.C. government every year.”
Cityviews Village property manager Bill Mitsui said there have been some changes since CWI took over the building. The property management team joined several BC Housing programs, and instituted a “quit smoking program,” as well as an “assisted-living help program.”
“If people are trying to link building issues that we are trying to resolve with ‘low income’ people, they will need to think again about whether that is a proper way to categorize our people,” he said.
The property manager said the building was mismanaged in the past, and he is trying to make it a nicer place to live.
“As the current property manager, I’m not willing to let this 55-year-old building deteriorate any further,” he said.
“There are definitely issues in the building such as maintenance requests, crime issues, smoking issues, and health-and -safety issues, which need changes per se, but tagging these issues with low income people seems problematic and disrespectful to our people.”
He noted regulations are not based on color, race, income, or gender.
“New management might impact tenants with all levels of income,” he said.
“Unfortunately we don’t have enough knowledge of income level with most existing tenants, but the building has many decent and respectful tenants as far as I know.”
With regards to Curtis Lachance, Mitsui said the eviction order the company sent was due to non-payment, and noted the tenant had been served with multiple warnings regarding health and safety issues in his unit before Mitsui filed the order.
“This issue was not a mere simple eviction case, and we have not taken any further action since December 2020, and are waiting for the tenant, or his parents, to come to talk to us to find a resolution,” he said.
He argues he didn’t know Lachance had a mental health issue until hearing about it from an advocate for the tenant, and pointed out the building is, “not equipped to deal with mental health [issues].”
“None of our property managers were trained to handle mental health issues here in the building, and we are not licensed to deal with people who have mental health issues, but I hope we can help the tenant to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”