8 VancouVering Home­own­ers want renters gone

Week­end, Oc­to­ber 6-9, 2017 Sur­rey cracks down on unau­tho­rized suites

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - NEWS - Jen st. De­nis

Chris­tine Dubecki is try­ing to find a new land­lord who will rent to a sin­gle mother of three on dis­abil­ity as­sis­tance who can only af­ford $1,050 a month.

With a rental va­cancy rate at just 0.4 per cent in Sur­rey, it’s a nearly im­pos­si­ble task.

“I’ve al­ready con­sid­ered go­ing to a woman’s shel­ter, be­cause I can­not af­ford the mar­ket,” Dubecki said.

Heidi Thomas, another renter who moved into Clay­ton Heights as a sin­gle mother, is in dis­be­lief.

“It doesn’t feel real be­cause I can’t be­lieve the city would ac­tu­ally evict peo­ple,” she said.

Mauro Hre­lio is a home­owner who wants renters like Dubecki and Thomas gone from Clay­ton Heights. He com­plains the renters in his neigh­bour­hood are loud. They flick cig­a­rette butts on the ground. And, he says, their chil­dren are over­crowd­ing lo­cal schools.

He also com­plains that it’s hard for his el­derly par­ents to find a place to park near his house when they visit. In or­der to save the spot in front of his house, he parks one of his three ve­hi­cles on the street in­stead of in his drive­way.

Hre­lio has lit­tle sym­pa­thy for Thomas and Dubecki.

“You shouldn’t be in an il­le­gal base­ment suite,” he said. Of renters in gen­eral, he later adds: “You’re just a renter — (home­own­ers) are tax­pay­ers.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing thou­sands of com­plaints from res­i­dents like Hre­lio, Sur­rey is crack­ing down on unau­tho­rized base­ment suites in Clay­ton Heights.

The rel­a­tively new neigh­bour­hood was de­signed to in­clude base­ment suites and coach houses. Sur­rey by­laws pro­hibit a home­owner from rent­ing out more than one suite, but over the years, mul­ti­ple suites have pro­lif­er­ated.

Now, says Mayor Linda Hep­ner, the city has been left with no other choice but to or­der 175 home­own­ers to de­com­mis­sion il­le­gal base­ment suites by Jan. 31. The city has re­lented on that dead­line and will give ex­ten­sions on a case-by-case ba­sis to res­i­dents with ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances, such as hav­ing a child in school in the neigh­bour­hood.

“The (rental va­cancy rate) is at an all-time low,” Hep­ner said. “We need to be cog­nizant of that and we have to man­age that com­mu­nity’s con­cerns, where there are home­own­ers who say we ex­pected to live in a sin­gle fam­ily neigh­bour­hood, and those who are turn­ing it into a multi-fam­ily neigh­bour­hood.”

Hep­ner said the com­mu­nity has re­jected sev­eral so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing a res­i­den­tial park­ing per­mit sys­tem and “queu­ing” — al­low­ing more streets to have park­ing on both sides of streets, so only one car at a time can travel down the cen­tre of the street.

Dubecki’s land­lord has told her he will evict her with two months’ no­tice. As she searched Craiglist for list­ings, she came across the house where she rents a base­ment suite, listed as a home for rent for $3,400 a month.

“I had to beg my cur­rent land­lord to let me live here, and I had to of­fer to pay $50 more to live here,” Dubecki said. That’s $50 she doesn’t have: it’s an em­bar­rass­ment to Dubecki that she can’t pay for things like in­door shoes for her kids at school.

Hep­ner be­lieves Sur­rey’s tight rental va­cancy will ease soon be­cause the city has is­sued per­mits for over 2,000 apart­ment units, in­clud­ing some rental. The city also is­sued 400 per­mits for se­condary suites in 2017.

As for Hre­lio, he’s hop­ing his neigh­bour­hood will be qui­eter, and schools will be less full.

“50 per cent of the kids in this neigh­bour­hood are in il­le­gal base­ment suites,” he said.

Heidi Thomas and her son, Bran­don, 6, are among hun­dreds who may have to move be­cause of a crack­down on base­ment suites in Sur­rey’s Clay­ton Heights.

Jennifer GauTHier/ for MeTro

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