Deep Pockets and the Coming Wave of New Westminster Renovictions


Dispatch from VTU Organizer David Hendry:

"Big money salivates at the investment opportunities of 'below-market' rental housing.  In New West, hundreds of older rental buildings face the upward pressure of a housing market gone insane.  Now is the time to organize your building and your neighborhood to protect some of the last of the “affordable” rental stock in the Lower Mainland."

Over the last few months I’ve been talking to tenants in buildings all over the Lower Mainland, including Cloverdale, the Arbutus area and East Van. More recently I’ve had a chance to learn about the housing situation in my own backyard: New Westminster.

The Downtown area of New Westminster has exploded with condo development in the three years since I’ve lived here.  However, if you go 4-5 blocks up the hill, there is a huge density of renters living in older 3-storey buildings that just might be the most important “affordable” housing stock in the city. Lately, the utter madness of the Lower Mainland has put upward pressure on the rental prices in these buildings.  As markets rise, there are people with deep, deep pockets who only see housing as an investment opportunity not as shelter or a home. Their profit-seeking only sees assets and not the tenants lives that they will shatter with their actions.

….and now we know some of their names.  

Tenants in one New Westminster building received a note from “Prime Rentals Ltd,” new owners as of May 10th, 2018.  Prime Rentals Ltd does not have an address, a website or a phone number: official correspondence is through a gmail account, or by placing documents in a mail slot in the downstairs office. The company’s note stated that they would be evicting tenants as soon as the obtain city permits to “undergo extensive renovations”.  These kinds of letters are designed to induce panic. In a housing crisis, an eviction notice is the worst fear for many - an event that brings forth the panic of moving cities, changing jobs and schools, and, very realistically, the possibility of homelessness. The elderly, people with pets and people with disabilities face greater difficulties in finding a new home at prices they can afford.    

In New West, as elsewhere, layers of secrecy attempt to hide who will make the profit - but what we found out should come as no surprise. It's the rich coming for our homes. The already-rich who for decades have made a killing speculating on housing-as-investment, “realizing market value” by evicting long-term tenants and jacking up the rates.  

A title and company search for “Prime Rentals Ltd” indicates that there are three directors for the company: Mario Cirillo, owner of Rarity Homes and Construction, Ernest A. Hee, a practicing lawyer with McMillan LLP, and Edgar Ward Jones, President of Western Investment Ltd Partners (WIP).  WIP is an investment vehicle that buys up perfectly sound apartment buildings, renovates, and packages them off to be sold as a portfolio of investments. In 2010, WIP packaged 19 buildings, 8 of them in New Westminster, and sold them for a whopping $170 million to Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAPREI) - one of the largest in the country.  WIP isn’t the only player in the market. A slew of investment, construction and property management companies smell profit in the air. It’s a feeding frenzy.

It’s too late for tenants at 322 and 404 7th St., just blocks away, whose homes already number amongst the 215 renovictions served in New West in the past two years. That’s hundreds of lives upended - and this is likely just the beginning.If you live in New West and if you are worried about your home, now is the time to start mounting a fight back.  

Starting the conversation with your neighbors NOW and knowing your rights as renters is SO important.

  • Book an information meeting for your building with one of our VTU organizers.
  • Learn the ins and outs of tenant organizing and defense against renoviction.   
  • Also sign the VTU’s petition for real rent control: Take away the incentive for Renovictions!

 

David Hendry
Vancouver Tenants Union Organizer
Email: dhendry7@gmail.com.