Four months rent, staggered evictions over a year, and the right of first refusal is the new offer that evicted tenants from Pinecrest Townhouses, must consider before a March 19 deadline to accept or dispute the ‘renoviction’ notices that more than 35 families received taped to their doors on Feb. 26.
Tenants and Prince Rupert community leaders gathered at Fishermans Hall on March 11 and heard Paul Legace, tenant advocate for Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre (PRUAC) explain the offer from Steve Rodrozen and Avichai Shachar, the principal partners in 1232949 B.C. Ltd., and 1232062 B.C. Ltd., the companies that own the townhomes on Immanuel St.and the mutli-unit apartment building on First Ave.
Under the offer, the landlord has agreed to postpone some evictions, with the First Ave. property off the eviction agenda until Feb. 28, 2021. It is proposed tenants at Pinecrest vacate in multiples of 12 units and every four months. Tenants received a map indicating the termination dates of each block, as June 30, October 31, Feb. 28, 2021.
The Prince Rupert rental market is at less than one per cent vacancy rate and it’s a time when housing availability is scarce, Legace said.
“I am very pleased in the discussions had with Mr. Rodrodzen over the past few days, despite my feelings about eviction. He has certainly gone beyond the legal requirement. Staggering the evictions will not flood the market. It gives the tenants a chance to find something,” Legace said.
“While this offer may not be appreciated by everyone, it is a substantial offer. It’s up to the tenants to decide if they take it or not. The idea of staggering was an important idea expressed. It’s a good offer considering the circumstance and situation. I think the landlord now understands the situation in Prince Rupert,” Legace said.
The tenants were also offered an advanced lump sum payment of three months rent equivalent to have the funds to be able to secure new housing, Legace said. The last month of their tenancy is free, as well as they have right of first refusal when the renovations are complete. This package is conditional on tenants being current with the rent and signing a mutual agreement to end the tenancy.
The March 19 meeting followed an information session on March 5, which saw attendees such as Lee Brain, mayor of Prince Rupert, numerous city councilors, Joseph Jack representing Jennifer Rice MLA, and a packed house full of tenants. Some meeting attendees utilized the standing room only in the hallways.
The meeting started off on a tenacious foot, but settled down when Arnold Nagy of Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre (PRUAC) stepped into control tempers and chair the meeting.
At the meeting, Mayor Lee Brain, spoke of his concern and how he had reached out to government and the landlords regarding the dire situation.
“We’re here today to help you and to mobilize action. We didn’t know this was going to happen until [The Northern View] came out,” Brain said.
“Legally, we [the city] can’t stop people from renovating, but we are going to work our asses off for you guys, as much as we can and is humanly possible, ” Brain said addressing the tenants.
Discussions about the renovictions brought together the mayor, the MLA, Taylor Bachrach MP, the Residential Tenancy Branch and the Ministry of Housing, said Legace.
“We need to be proactive. This is a community responsibility,” said Legace.
Not all participants at the meeting were happy with the offer or that the evictions were continuing. They voiced their concerns directly to Jennifer Rice, NDP MLA for the North Coast, who acknowledged that bad policies have been left in place for 16 years by previous governments, but, who also pointed out the recent progress with tenancy laws.
“My government has been in place for two years and we have taken action,” Rice said in response. “The fact that you have four months notice was done by my government. The fact that you have first right of refusal was done by my government. These changes are because we understand the problems with rentals in British Columbia.”
“Hearing from all of these people certainly affected the landlords decision. They understand what’s happening in the community now. I’m hearing compassion from them. They do feel a personal responsibility to do some thing better, Legace said.
The way the current situation has unfolded should make a landlord think twice about renovictions, said Legace.
“Any further issues, the bar has been set. I’ll tell you people are going to think twice…” Legace said. “We are a small community. You have to look people in the eye and dialogue with them. Some one will think next time on how they will approach the situation. They will have the mayor watching, they will have the MLA watching, they will have the advocates watching.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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