Eviction notice overturned for trailer park residents

Residents of City Centre Mobile Home Park, who had been given notice that they would have to leave their homes in within a year to make way for a proposed development, have now received letters letting them know they will be able to stay.

The eviction notices they received at the end of April meant that residents would not only have to find somewhere else to live, but would also lose the investments they had made in their modest homes - many of them having been purchased to get out of the rental market.

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Due to municipal bylaws and the state of most of the park's trailers, residents wouldn't be able to move their homes and would have to watch them be bulldozed to make way for residential multi-unit dwellings.

One of the park's residents, Troy Gach, said he had a gut feeling that what was happening wasn't right and immediately set out to find a way to save his trailer and consequently those of his neighbours.

Along with 18 of his neighbours, Gach filed for dispute resolution at the courthouse and went to City Hall on numerous occasions to learn about his rights as a tenant.

"I read the manufactured home act and I found out that to give us those notices they needed the permits and all that stuff and when I went to city hall I found out there's never been an application to rezone the property," said Gach.

City Planner, Kevin Brooks told the Alaska Highway News that Gach's interpretation of the law was correct.

"The owner has to apply for rezoning first but, due to the policy we have in place with the official community plan, staff would be unlikely to recommend rezoning to council," said Brooks.

"Best practice is to maintain a use that already matches the official community plan and existing zoning. At the moment the park is zoned R3 and it is being used as a multi-unit property - that being said, it would ultimately be council's decision," said Brooks.

But for council to approve rezoning the property, there would need to be public consultations and an examination of the proposed redevelopments merits, and in a city that's short on affordable housing the property owner would have a tough sell.

The legislation governing mobile home tenants' rights was amended in 2010, following an outcry stemming from trailer park re-developments across the province. The legislation has passed its third reading but has yet to be adopted by the legislature.

Vancouver-Hastings NDP MLA, Shane Simpson proposed the amendments to protect British Columbians living in mobile home parks from the menacing prospect of redevelopment.

"This act looks to protect the most vulnerable sector of our society," said Simpson in the legislature, "This group of people faces unique obstacles and barriers when they face an eviction. Their homes, in most instances, are permanent structures and not movable. If they can move the costs are prohibitive for a manufactured home - if you can find another location at all."

Simpson's amendment would require park owners to pay a tenant's relocation expenses up to $25,000 and oblige a park owner to pay those tenants who are unable to relocate their homes because of local building standards an amount equal to the fair market value of the manufactured home as compensation.

Gach said he wasn't shocked when he found out that he wouldn't have to leave his home after all and figures the system worked in this case to protect he and his neighbours' rights.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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