Letter to the Editor: Port Edward more concerned with LNG than seniors

Paul Lagace praises new seniors homes, but asks where protection was for trailer park residents

As the Coordinator and Advocate for Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre, and former Kitimat Housing Advocate, I feel compelled to express my concern over Port Edward Council’s failure in protecting 60+ citizens from a recent speculative housing development.

I was pleased to read that Port Edward will have eight units of affordable living space in the new senior housing development, which is expected to be built by December 2018. The Mayor of Port Edward has been quoted as saying, “I just feel this is important to our community. For one thing, seniors who may want to stay in Port Edward and feel they can’t, there is now going to be an opportunity for them.” But respectfully, it is too little, too late, now – the Port Edward Council did nothing to protect the 22 households that I was involved in working with, from the former Port Edward Trailer Park. Those households represented about 60 folks, most of whom were seniors, who were forced to leave Port Edward.

In the Port Edward Housing Action Plan (developed by City Spaces), dated February 2015, under recommendation #3, the District of Port Edward was advised to “consider establishing a Tenant Relocation Policy that proactively plans for redevelopment of future parks.” Over 25 Municipalities in BC, including Kitimat, had developed such policies that included compensation for manufactured home owners, prior to December 2015. That ‘festive’ season in 2015 was marked with bailiffs removing seniors from their homes at the Port Edward Trailer Park, a tragic situation that cost many their life savings, and created undue stress and hardship.

Now, I am no friend of Stonecliff Properties, who purchased the Port Edward Trailer Park in late 2013 — which is a whole other story — but the District of Port Edward, in my view, made an error when they hired a consultant who was clearly in a conflict of interest. L&M Engineering, was hired to develop the District of Port Edward’s Manufactured Home Park Bylaw – a bylaw that was adopted in October 2013. The project manager was also the very same person who developed Stonecliff Properties Management Plans in December and January of 2013/2014, and another one in April 2014. He was working for both Stonecliff Properties and the District of Port Edward at the same time. In a letter dated Oct. 6, 2014, to the District of Port Edward, the project manager states: “With the removal of all existing mobile homes and appurtenances, the existing manufactured home park can be upgraded and renovated in accordance with the new District of Port Edward Manufactured Home Park Bylaw.”

My problem is not with the project manager who was hired to do these two jobs, at the same time, nor ultimately with Stonecliff Properties. My problem is with the council of Port Edward, who set this catastrophic chain of events off, in the first place, by developing/focusing on a Manufactured Home Park Bylaw, instead of a Tenant Relocation Policy. Port Edward council, you were clearly more concerned about your LNG dreams than you ever were about your seniors. And the irony of it all is, that after Stonecliff Properties skipped town, you enacted your clean up bylaw in 2017, in order to remove vacant trailers and debris that Stonecliff Properties left for you to deal with. You can now join the queue behind L&M Engineering, North Central Bailiffs and five former tenants of the Port Edward Trailer Park, who are all still waiting for their various court orders to be paid out by Stonecliff Properties.

Paul Lagace

Coordinator and Poverty Law Advocate

Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre

READ MORE: Port Edward clears trailer park


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