Skip to content

No tenant moving costs until Coquitlam OK's rezoning: developer

"We should not have to make payments until we have a project," Cressey Development Group told Coquitlam's mayor and council on Monday, May 13, while challenging the city's Tenant Relocation Policy.

A developer wanting to raze a rental building in Burquitlam to construct a 34-storey strata tower and a six-storey rental block got a bashing from Coquitlam politicians this week for refusing to follow a city policy.

On Monday, May 13, Hani Lamman, the executive vice president of the Cressey Development Group, stood before the city’s council-in-committee to challenge Coquitlam’s Tenant Relocation Policy.

In his 30-minute delegation, Lamman argued that since the rezoning for his company’s proposed development has yet to be approved, Cressey shouldn’t have to pay financial compensation for the nine tenants who have left Sherwood Apartments since the application was filed with the city in March 2023.

Lamman claimed he did not know why the tenants had vacated their suites over the past year, or if their departure was related to the development plans. He also said Cressey was “compelled” to submit its rezoning proposal for the land at 727 North Rd. and its 46-year-old building because of new housing projects nearby.

Lamman said while Cressey agrees to the moving costs for the tenants in the 51 rental units, “our issue is with the timing” noting the company has already shelled out about $57,000 to the nine tenants who have since relocated.

“The thing is, we don’t have a project yet,” he said. “All we have is the idea of a project … We should not have to make payments until we have a project.”

Council reaction

In response, Mayor Richard Stewart and councillors took aim at Cressey for its interpretation of the policy and chastised it for failing to stand up for renters during a housing crisis. (Coun. Dennis Marsden was not present at the meeting).

“I am OK with the Tenant Relocation Policy because it is crystal clear in what your expectations are to those tenants,” a furious Coun. Matt Djonlic started.

“You have put an application in. Fact. You created a great deal of uncertainty for those tenants. That is why we have that policy in place. I have been a renter. I have been a renter that has been evicted. I’ve been a renter who has been told they might be having to move. Renters need time to make change in their lives.”

He added, “Rent continues to go up astronomically high. Those renters who are leaving your property likely are going into new places that they can no longer afford … If you want the project approved, you will meet those obligations that we set out in the policy. End of discussion.”

Mayor Stewart, along with Djonlic and Coun. Robert Mazzarolo, also criticized Cressey for its numerous emails on the topic, which they claimed ate into civic planners’ time to process other development bids around the city.

Stewart said the policy was appropriately described to Cressey before it submitted its application, which is now deemed active on the city books.

“When you apply, you have to accept the conditions of the program here,” Stewart said. “Meeting the terms required in the policy is an expectation we have on you as a company … I don’t know if we could have been clearer.”

The mayor also urged developers in Coquitlam to fully understand the language in the Tenant Relocation Policy “and follow it.”

Coun. Craig Hodge said the policy was introduced because of concern developers might be trying to encourage or facilitate renters to leave early and forgo the moving costs.

“We wanted to ensure that all renters were treated equally and they had the same information, and there wasn’t going to be an incentive to get renters to move out prior to a specific time when the compensation would kick in,” he said.

Coun. Teri Towner described Cressey’s actions to withhold compensation from eligible tenants as “bad faith.”

She said Metro Vancouver has few vacancies for renters and, for the suites available, the monthly rates are high (by comparison, tenants at Sherwood Apartments pay $1,800 for a 683 sq. ft. unit while the price is up to $2,250 for a 834 sq. ft. unit plus $50 a month for parking).

“It’s very anxiety-producing and stressful for tenants when they learn that where they currently live is going to change, so if they can grab another opportunity to move somewhere else early then they should,” Towner said. “That’s why the policy was put in place.”

What the Tenant Relocation Policy states:

"Tenant households permanently residing in the purpose-built rental property with five or more units under application for redevelopment are eligible for financial compensation, assistance and right of first refusal, if such tenants occupied a unit prior to the Applicant submitting a Development Permit or Rezoning application to the City."