Editorial: Stemming the tide of ‘demovictions’

Langley City councillor Nathan Pachal is to be  commended for taking the initiative to host a local forum on the problem of ‘demovictions.’

As he points out in an article in Friday’s Times,  Langley City has a lot of older rental stock that is coming to the point of needing to be renewed.

His question is whether that renewal needs to end up pricing low-income tenants out of their own homes.

Here’s  another question: Is this forum timely or is it, in fact, already too late?

For some, at least, it is.

The City has already seen at least two cases where tenants have been forced out of their low-cost rentals because the owners can no longer afford the building’s upkeep, opting instead to sell the property for redevelopment.

Last June the Lions Senior Housing Society announced they would have to close the eight-unit Yale Manor and relocate the tenants, some of whom had lived there for more than 20 years.

The reason given was that the funding needed to maintain the aging building far exceeded the revenue  generated through the low rents.

In December, nine months after a fire destroyed six units of Carroll Court, that building and its twin, Merton Court, were scheduled for demolition, and tenants were given the news that they would have to find someplace new to go.

The owner said she simply couldn’t afford the repairs and upgrades required on the rent she was collecting each month — considered by many to be some of the lowest in the region.

So what can be done to keep this pattern from repeating itself again and again in a community that is filled with similarly aging structures, housing an aging population trying to scrape by on the bare minimum?

One suggestion is to create incentives for developers to include low-cost housing in their projects. Given the opportunity to make a lot of money in the current searing hot market, those incentives will have to be great indeed.

Then there is the question of what, exactly, constitutes “affordable.”

It’s unlikely that whatever is built in place of Yale Manor, Merton Court or Carroll Court will qualify as “affordable” to the property’s former occupants.

What is almost certain, however, is that Pachal’s forum will be well attended by  low-income tenants who fear they could be the next to be demovicted from their homes.