Helped needed for displaced renters
For the second time this month, a group has come before Coquitlam city council to ask for help with Burquitlam residents being displaced by a massive housing redevelopment.
On Monday, Dennis McDonald of the Medallion-Cedar Grove Tenants' Committee told council the loss of rental housing as a result of BlueSky's proposal, at North Road and Foster Avenue, will have devastating impacts for many tenants currently living there.
McDonald said residents in the 112 units at the Medallion and Cedar Grove apartment complexes got a notice "slipped under our door" about the plans from BlueSky on June 11.
And he called on the city to negotiate more time for the residents to allow them to find alternate accommodation. Because of the high cost of living in Coquitlam, many will be forced to leave the city, McDonald suggested.
McDonald said his group is now canvassing the tenants to determine the demographics of that community, which he said is comprised of people on low or fixed incomes: larger families, immigrants, seniors and disabled people. Some have lived in their units for 20-plus years, he said.
Earlier this month, Steve Bailey of the Tri-Cities Ministerial Association also spoke to council about the loss of rental housing because of BlueSky's redevelopment that, if approved, is due to start next year.
First reading of the rezoning bid is expected to be considered by city council this fall.
In a statement to The Tri-City News on Tuesday a BlueSky spokesperson said the company is currently awaiting city staff feedback on its plans for 515-525 Foster Ave. and 655 North Rd., which were re-submitted to the city last month.
And the company is working with the residents: an open house was held on June 19 and a follow-up meeting is scheduled. BlueSky has offered the current tenants on its property a waive of the last two months' rent to assist in relocation efforts; a reduction in the purchase price for a new apartment unit in the proposed development; and a priority for the available rental units in the 655 North Rd. building.
BlueSky proposes to have 57 new purpose-built rental housing units on its site.
Jim McIntyre, Coquitlam's general manager of planning and development, told The News that a public consultation (under Section 879 of the Local Government Act) will take place before council debates first reading of the rezoning.
Last December, BlueSky officials spoke about the preliminary plans before city council, outlining its intention to build 788 units in three high rises, 11 townhouses and a four-storey market-rental building on two lots.
Its plans come as the provincial government is building the Evergreen Line through Burquitlam — creating pressure in the housing industry — and as the city drafts its long-awaited Affordable Housing Strategy. The latter document is set to come before council soon, McIntyre said.
At Monday's council-in-committee meeting, Coun. Mae Reid — a former member of the Metro Vancouver housing committee — offered her sympathy to McDonald but said the city can do little about the housing crunch, suggesting the federal and provincial governments need to step in to help.
And she voiced her frustration about people taking advantage of the subsidized housing offered by Metro Vancouver. "This really needs to be looked at," Reid said, noting some tenants are "greedy not needy."
The Metro Vancouver Housing Corp. owns and operates more than 50 affordable rental housing sites that provide units for some 10,000 people.