FLEETWOOD — Just two days after the Now-Leader interviewed three longtime residents of Green Tree Estates manufactured home park, the people living there learned of their uncertain future.
Three elderly residents were being interviewed by the newspaper to hear what they love about their style of housing. The story they were featured in looked at the slow demise of such housing as development pressures increase.
Two days later, on Thursday (June 8), park residents received a letter that said the owner intended to rezone the property to make way for townhouses.
Roz Bailey, who has lived in the Fleetwood park for a decade, said many seniors reside in the park.
“There are veterans here and people on limited incomes,” she said, adding that many seniors in the park are “already feeling that they are under duress and they are suffering emotional and physical upsets.”
“I don’t think the city would like to see 500 to 600 seniors on the street, so we are good for now,” said Bailey.
The letter distributed to park residents said the intention is to rezone the property to permit a “high density, transit-oriented community next to the planned rapid transit on Fraser Highway. It adds that the project will supply “large amounts of housing at some of the most affordable prices in the Lower Mainland. Building more sustainable and higher density communities along rapid transit will reduce urban sprawl, reduce green field development and the destruction of wildlife habitat, lower automobile use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The letter assured that they would work with tenants to “minimize the impact of this transition” and that “no tenant will have to vacate the property for a minimum of 24 months.”
The letter also gave options, said Bailey, the first to buy their homes outright plus a 25 per cent bonus, the second to move their homes for them to other Fraser Valley parks, and the third had Bailey puzzled.
“This is one I’ve never heard before,” she told the Now-Leader. “They would offer you a guaranteed income - $700 for life.”
All three options include a payment of 12 months rent.
Bailey said she has been in touch with Surrey Councillor Vera LeFranc, to see if she can gain some certainty about the future.
“I don’t know much more than you about this situation as there isn’t a current application in front of council,” Surrey Councillor Vera LeFranc told the Now-Leader.
LeFranc noted the owner has a lot of work to do before an application can be filed, so she doesn’t “expect to see one for some time.”
“Many manufactured homes are owned by seniors to they are disproportionately affected by these redevelopments. It is very concerning as some of them are vulnerable, and their homes are older than 10 years so they can’t move them to a new park,” she elaborated. “In the past, we have made sure that the vulnerable residents, like seniors, receive additional supports.”
LeFranc said there’s “no doubt” that these parks are facing redevelopment pressure and that it will be difficult to accommodate residents in local manufactured home parks.
“Recognizing these challenges, the City of Surrey developed the most proactive and stringent bylaw possible, given our limited authority over manufactured homes. As in the past, Mayor and Council are very clear with developers that manufactured home owners are to be treated with dignity and respect, and rezoning applications will not be approved unless we’re completely assured that residents have been adequately compensated, and that their individual needs have been addressed.”
This was the case last year at Park Mobile, along King George Boulevard at 96th Avenue, across from Surrey Memorial Hospital.
Surrey City Council sent the application back to staff to better work with the tenants there on a transition plan.
WestStone Group plans to build a $250-million state-of-the-art seniors facility there, with more than 400 units of varying levels of care as well as a research centre and offices.
Twice, city council delayed the plan over concerns about where the park’s tenants would go.
A city report dated Dec. 5, 2016 noted all 47 mobile homes had been acquired by the developer, with all tenants due out by the end of June, 2017.
But in South Surrey, the last remaining residents of the Seacrest Motel and RV Park agreed to move off the property in March of 2017.
While officials with developer Lark Projects Ltd. said “everybody was happy,” others disagreed, and faced the challenge of finding an affordable place to live.
“We are human casualties of Surrey’s fast development, closing down beautiful communities for homes we can’t afford,” said Nancy Malloy, one of the last residents to accept a financial settlement package from Lark.
She said she’s been searching for a nearby, affordable trailer park that will accept the two, however, that search has proved to be fruitless.
“It’s becoming a dying way of living and with the rents the way they are, it’s insane,” Malloy said.
LeFranc said this style of housing isn’t as affordable as it used to be, noting some pay more than $1,000 for pad rent alone, then there’s mortgage, utilities and taxes.
“The City of Surrey has done as much as possible with our limited authority, to protect manufactured home owners, and will continue to ensure that developers meet a gold standard whenever residents are displaced,” stressed LeFranc, “but the Province needs to make changes to the Residential Tenancy Branch if there are to be any further protections.”
Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains agreed. He has introduced bills that attempt to strengthen compensation and protection in the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act (MHPTA).
“They are all in real danger,” he said. “These are not RVs or temporary one or two night stays. These are permanent homes. Because we don’t have a strategy to protect them and make them part of our affordable housing strategy, they’re really vulnerable to development.”
LRT and rapid transit along King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway will “escalate that demand,” added Bains.
“It’s really sad. I think it’s our responsibilities, provincial and local governments, to work together on how to protect these houses.”
Luckily, Bailey knows where she’s headed.
“I have a daughter who lives in Qualicum,” she said. “She’s got a couple of little girls and I’m sure I’m able enough to be able to help a little bit. She’s a community care nurse and she wants to take it upon herself to take care of me in my old age…. I’m sure I will go.”
But she hopes the incoming provincial government will amend the MHPTA to better protect - and compensate - herself and other residents in this predicament.