“Imagine, we have a steady, normal life. Then suddenly, somebody comes and says, ‘OK guys, in two months’ time you have to move out.’ How are you supposed to feel? You’re stressed. You just keep thinking 24 hours about that. All your plans, all your life is just postponed and now you just deal with this.”
Those are the words of Oleh Chentsov, a Burnaby resident whose story (see front page) highlights just how unpredictable life can be when you’re a renter.
Chentsov is one of a group of tenants – all immigrants to Canada – who are facing the very real prospect of having nowhere to live thanks to what they characterize as “renovictions” at their apartment building.
They’re taking their case to the Residential Tenancy Branch, but in the meantime they’re living in limbo and wondering what they’ll do if they end up out of their affordable units and back at the mercy of a competitive rental market.
They’re far from alone. With other residents falling victim to “demovictions” as older buildings are sold off to developers for new highrise projects, and still others simply being squeezed out by rising prices, Burnaby is becoming a precarious place for those who can’t afford to buy a high-priced condo.
Granted, it’s not an unusual story in the Lower Mainland. Burnaby is far from alone when it comes to the perils of a housing market that’s growing steadily out of reach of ordinary working folks.
But stories like Chentsov’s do make us look rather wistfully across 10th Avenue at New Westminster, where the city government is at least attempting to deal with the issue of affordable housing.
For instance, New Westminster requires all multi-family projects to include a percentage of family-friendly units. And, just this week, the city announced a partnership that has seen a new “rent bank” set up in the city, with help from credit unions, non-profit groups, the city and the MLA’s office. The rent bank will provide emergency low-interest loans to tenants facing eviction or utility cut-off due to unpaid bills.
Those aren’t cure-all solutions. But at least New Westminster’s actions are going some distance to convincing us that the city actually cares about all its citizens – and not just those who can afford to buy high-priced highrise condos.
We wish we could say the same about Burnaby.