A group of five tenants who have been fighting eviction from a Langley Township-owned rental house on 80th Avenue say they won’t leave Friday despite a notice telling them to vacate.
The five residents have been living in the house north of the Langley Events Centre for three years. The received a letter a week before the end of the month telling them to leave by April 30.
“The letter frames us as squatters, but we’ve been tenants here for three years,” said tenant Maureen Brown. “We’re waiting for our RTB [Residential Tenancy Branch] hearing which will take place in May.”
The tenants have been fighting the eviction since they got their first notice in November last year.
Like many houses in Willoughby, the home was once a medium-sized family home on an acreage. Eventually it was sold for development, and the new owner brought in renters until a final buyer could be found. In this case, the final buyer is the Township, which is expanding its landholdings around the LEC.
The tenants have support from the non-profit activist group the Eviction Defense Network.
The tenants and the activists say that the residents were promised help finding new housing, but haven’t received any, only visits from Township bylaw officers and Langley RCMP.
The tenants also question why they’re being evicted now, in the middle of a pandemic, when there is relatively little activity going on at the Langley Events Centre.
“The Township wasted $10 million to turn our home into a parking lot?” Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense. We’re in a pandemic. They’re putting our lives at risk.”
Rental houses in areas like Willoughby frequently become a source of relatively low-income housing for several years as the process of development moves forward.
The homes are rented out as developers or property speculators buy individual lots and assemble them for larger projects to develop into denser single family homes, townhouses, or condos. This process can take years.
But the situation is always temporary. When development approaches, the older housing is inevitably bulldozed and the tenants, who may have been there for years, face eviction.
The alternative is leaving the homes empty, which has led to some Willoughby homes going up in flames, due to arson or fires accidentally set by homeless people squatting inside.
A statement from the Eviction Defense Network noted that some communities, including Vancouver and Richmond, require that rental units that are demolished for development are replaced with new rental units, but the Township does not require that as part of its development process.
As of just before noon on Friday, Brown said there had been no official reaction from the Township on the refusal to leave.
The Langley Advance Times has reached out to the Township for comment.
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