Letter: Money talks and renters are hurt in Coquitlam

The Editor,

Re. "New rentals vs. old rentals in Burquitlam" (The Tri-City News, Nov. 21).

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It seems Bonita Zarrillo is the only city councillor in Coquitlam who has not yet sold out to the breakneck redevelopment of 50-year-old affordable rental complexes. The cost to the human beings living there is of little concern.

Let’s start with deceptive numbers: Yes, 98 existing units will be replaced by 135 new ones, but only 20 of these are “below market” — i.e., affordable. Currently, all 98 are. This proportion holds for all projects in Coquitlam, meaning a huge net loss for affordability.

This is gentrification, and the fact council is facilitating this in midst of a housing affordability crisis does not seem to cause a twinge in anyone’s conscience. Lower-income citizens are being squeezed out of the city core whose prosperity they helped build. They are being demovicted into an environment of near-zero availability throughout Metro Vancouver.

So you think offering three to “as high as” 20 months rent is generous? Consider for a moment how far that money would go in the new rental environment.

Additional time, too, merely extends the stress of being uprooted. Compromises in cost, location, size and convenience are also a harsh inevitability when one is moved under duress.

How many of the legions of homeless are simply victims of this process of building “more”?

People are not mere pawns to be moved at will. Those who do not have the good fortune to own property deserve to be treated with much greater respect.

For a more humane way, consider Burnaby.

There, displaced renters are offered replacement homes and the right of return at the same rent. These measures still fall short of those that are common practice in Japan and many nations in Europe. Coun. Zarrillo advises building new affordable rentals before the old ones are knocked down. Common sense, isn’t it?

Apart from whether a perfectly good apartment complex should be knocked down at all, respect for basic human dignity and housing rights sorely needs to be factored into this city’s ambitious redevelopment plans. Demovicting tenants over a long time — less noticeable? — and offering token dollar compensation just won’t do in a time of crisis. It results in the travesty of 66 affordable suites currently standing empty until demolition time.

Money talks. Sad.

Felix Thijssen, Coquitlam

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