It’s coming down to the wire for residents of a Kelowna trailer park facing imminent eviction.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, residents of 44 units still standing at the Hiawatha RV Park found out they have four months to vacate their properties.
A controversial large condo development, spearheaded by Westcorp, an Edmonton-based developer, was revived in February of this year. They have owned the property, currently occupied by the mobile home park, since 2007. Come February 2021, once everyone is evicted, they plan on demolishing the homes and starting new.
Park resident Victoria Fox is dreading the move. But she’s speaking up for more than just herself. She said many people with disabilities reside in the park’s low-income housing, and moving them during the winter, and during a pandemic, will be a nightmare.
“That’s 60 families that have to try and find homes, in four months, in the middle of winter,” said Fox, adding that in the years she has lived there, the neighbourhood has been very supportive of her and her family. She said it’s been a great place to live.
“It’s going to be so weird to have to leave our homes… half of us might end up homeless. So, what are we supposed to do?”
Residents of the neighbourhood have started a petition against the set eviction date of Feb. 28. They say an extension to the end of April would give them more time to find new homes, as there is little to no availability for affordable housing at the moment. Fox also explained they have disputed the notice through Service BC, and hope this may result in an extension.
Westcorp vice president of operations Gail Temple said she only found out about this proposed extension yesterday (Oct. 28), and that it “remains to be seen.”
“It’s a construction schedule… so we will be as sensitive to that as we can,” she said. “Part of the reason we were hoping it would be springtime, is exactly that. It’ll be way easier for people to find accommodation in the spring.”
According to Westcorp, residents have long known of the park’s fate; demolition and revitalization. The company received approval in 2013 to redevelop the 18-acre site. In an effort to support those soon to be evicted, Westcorp said packages were sent to each with contact information for other low-income housing in the area.
Fox said despite applying to all low-income housing providers in the area, she is now on a one-year waiting list. It was recently reported that Kelowna has the fifth-highest rental rate in the country. The average two-bedroom rental unit in the city now costs $1750 per month.
“It’s nothing affordable for us, and they’re not helping us, they’re not accommodating us,” said Fox.
However, there are far fewer people to move now than there were in the recent past. The discovery of black mould in a home resulted in the inspection and demolition of 49 homes, displacing many. In 2013, there were 94 sets of mobile home owners renting pads from the company.
Temple said condo development or not, the more-than-50-year-old mobile homes were reaching end-of-life and needed to be taken down. She said the homes were purchased from those who owned them, at a fair price determined in collaboration with the City of Kelowna.
Fox understands this, but just wishes they were supported more.
“I would just like to know why they don’t care about their tenants. Why aren’t you helping us a bit more? Why aren’t you putting us into one of your apartment buildings? Do you want the rest of us to be homeless?”
There is no guarantee the new development will be able to house those who will be evicted.
“They say it will be affordable housing, but I doubt it,” said Fox.
Temple said they never promised the new development would be affordable. However, some of the housing she said will be appropriate for families.
“We’re not building affordable housing, I want to be clear about that… this is not going to be replacing affordable housing,” said Temple, adding the entire site will be a large rental project.
In response to claims Westcorp ‘doesn’t care’ and that many may go homeless, Temple said she was “sorry to hear someone would feel that way.”
“I know change is always really, really tough but that is absolutely the last thing we would feel… I think we’re trying to be as sensitive and helpful through this whole process as we possibly can.”
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