Vancouver Tenants Union takes aim at New Westminster housing crisis

More than 60 residents packed a meeting on a smoky summer Sunday afternoon to learn what they can do to tackle renovictions.

The Vancouver Tenants Union distributed leaflets about its Aug. 19 meeting to tenants in several buildings it knew had been sold or had begun renoviction proceedings, but has since learned of other buildings being impacted by renovictions.

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“There were a lot of concerns,” said David Hendry, an organizer with the Vancouver Tenants’ Union. “After having a lot of discussion, I think most people are pretty interested, especially in those buildings, in trying to band together and trying to fight these. It was good.”

According to Hendry, at least eight apartment buildings in New Westminster have been purchased this year, with tenants in some of those buildings having already received eviction notices.

“It is scary for a lot of people,” he said. “There aren’t many options for them if they want to stay in the neighbourhood.”

Hendry said the Vancouver Tenants Union plans to meet with tenants of other buildings in New West who are experiencing renovictions.

“From there, I think what we need to do is try and set up meetings within those buildings and have those people start to strategize about what to do,” he said of information sessions. “It is slightly different for each building sometimes.”

The Vancouver Tenants Union advises tenants not to immediately move out or to sign anything if they get eviction notices. Because the “whole neighbourhood is experiencing this crisis,” it believes it’s time for residents to get to know their neighbours and help each other fight for what they need.

 “Our strategy is to try, without being alarmist, to let people know and get people understanding their rights before they start receiving eviction notices because when that happens people understandably get very panicked and scared, and start scrambling around for other housing,” Hendry said. “Sometimes the companies file eviction notices that don’t have very good grounds, and they basically try to get as many people out as possible, even when they don’t have a very good case for it.”

While the Vancouver Tenants Union has provided the province with 50 policy changes it would like to see adopted and the City of New Westminster has lobbied for changes to the Residential Tenancy Act, Hendry said it could take time before changes are introduced at the provincial level that prevent renovictions.

“A big focus of the meeting was that we don’t know when these changes will be decided upon or when they will actually be put into place. It could be months, it could be even a year from now,” he said. “We were really strong about saying the number 1 line of defence is tenants organizing in their buildings. That’s the number 1 way that we can try to hold things off as long as we can for some of those policy changes to be put into effect. I think that’s our best bet.”


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