The few remaining Little Mountain tenants appeal their eviction notice through the residential tenancy branch Tuesday, two weeks before the Sept. 30 deadline to leave their homes.
Seven residents, six adults and one child, still live in the four units that remain at the 1950s-era social housing development.
B.C. Housing advised them July 27 that they would have to leave at the end of this month because the buildings must be demolished to allow for environmental remediation and new construction.
Rezoning for the site, which is being developed by Holborn Properties, hasn’t occurred yet, but city council approved policy for Little Mountain June 27. The original 224 units of social housing will be replaced with at least 234 units in phase one of the development. A minimum of 184 of these units will be suitable for families. Returning Little Mountain residents will be given first right of refusal on units with rents comparable to what they formerly paid. A minimum of 1,475 units will replace the original 224 units on the 15.3 acre site, as outlined in a Courier story in early August.
David Chudnovsky, a former NDP MLA and a current member of COPE’s executive, has been assisting tenants since he was the opposition’s critic for homelessness in 2007. He maintains eviction isn’t necessary, arguing he’s been told that ground won’t be broken until mid 2014 at the earliest.
“There’s absolutely no reason on that score for these people to have to leave now,” Chudnovsky told the Courier in a phone interview following a Monday morning press conference at the site calling attention to residents’ situation. “The tenants say there’s no reason to leave at all because it’s a huge site and it’s going to be done in phases, if it gets done. And social housing, according to the city, has to be done in the first phase. So there’s no reason not to build their new social housing and move directly into that. But even if you want to argue that they should leave, why would they have to leave now if there’s not going to be anything started before the middle of 2014?”
Tuesday’s eviction appeal is to be handled through a conference call. Chudnovsky calls that a “recipe for chaos” and argues it should be an in-person hearing. He points out six tenants are involved, two people are helping them, and they want to call the architect and developer as witnesses. He expects B.C. Housing also has a number of people involved.
Chudnovsky said he asked B.C. Housing to agree to an in-person hearing, but hasn’t received a response.
Sammy Chang, one of the tenants who’s lived at Little Mountain since 1974, is blind—as is his wife, added Chudnovsky who pointed out Chang has upcoming eye surgery scheduled, which is adding to his stress.
It’s unclear what will happen if the group loses the appeal.
“That’s up to the tenants. They’ll have to decide how they want to respond to that if we’re not successful. We expect to be successful because what we’re saying is completely and totally reasonable and we’re approaching it in the spirit of working for a solution that serves the needs of these people and serves the needs of the push for affordable housing for people who need it in the city,” Chudnovsky said.
B.C. Housing has said it plans to help the tenants find subsidized housing and assist with moving and related expenses.
It did not respond to queries for this story by deadline.