Metrotown community – a sanctuary in an uncertain city: By Simon Cienfuegos and Celia Sanchez
We are an immigrant family from Latin America and live very happy in Metrotown. My wife and I have two children of ages 15 and 12. Currently we rent an apartment in one of the buildings that are planned to be demolished and in its place, build a couple of high rise buildings, a few town houses and commercial suites. This, logically, means that sooner rather than later, we will be forced to leave the place where we have lived in since we came to Canada almost nine years ago. We are very grateful to this beautiful country because when most needed, we were greeted with open arms by those we have had the fortune to meet. Sadly, the conditions in which we left the place that gave us birth were traumatic due to violence and corruption. Although difficult, our lives began to be encouraging; our children arrived to Canada very young which helped them with a more or less smooth adaptation, but now they are older and can realize the circumstances that force us to leave behind the place where they grew up, our children are puzzled and frightened by the lack of stability that suddenly hangs over our family.
When we arrived in Vancouver, destiny mercifully brought us to Metrotown where we were granted an opportunity to rent in this building with nothing other than our promise that we would cover the rent payments on time; and over the years, we have come to realize how lucky we were. Less than 15 minutes walking we can get to the library, the community centre, the mall and movie theatres, the SkyTrain, the bus loop, the school and several parks, including Central Park. We can also walk to our family doctor’s office and different pharmacies; even at times, we have had to go to Burnaby Hospital to have medical attention. Fortunately nothing serious; however it is also comforting to know that there’s easy access to medical services even on a short bus trip. Close to home we also have the church that we attend to and our congregation. For our children, being close to their friends and classmates makes them feel they belong to this area. This is their home! They also feel safe walking to visit a friend and invite him/her to play in the park or to do some homework. These are just some examples that come to mind at this time. Given the speed at which our home is threatened, we have looked for options, but have just not been able to find a place that has half the benefits I mentioned before, and I do not believe we will be able to get even close to get all these amenities in one place.
Over the years, we have also seen that some of the amenities have disappeared as all these tall buildings rise and stand around us. One of the things I regret missing is the view of the mountains and the sunlight streaming through the windows. Perhaps to some this are simple things; but are not these simple things what we all look forward to have? And now we have lost it.
Speaking of losses, with the imminent eviction that now hangs over our family and the threat of being displaced from our home, we have also lost the sense of security and stability; we do not want to leave and therefore we can not help feeling that we are being outcast. Upon our arrival in Canada, one of the things that, as immigrants, we had to endure, is having left our lives behind and start from scratch. After nearly nine years, we now have a lifestyle, a social life and friends; this will most certainly be affected, but something that will definitely set us back is the financial outlay that awaits us and for which we are not prepared. The rental options in the area are not only scarce but decreasing in the same rate at which buildings are torn down to build these high rises that are not meant for lease and the price at which the new apartments are listed has, in turn, affected rental housing and raise their prices; something that I personally consider unjustified and advantageous. It is true that we all want to buy a home, but have restarted our lives just a little over eight years ago puts us in a difficult position and by forcing us to pay a higher rent we are condemned, and not so much us as parents but our children, to have a more difficult future.
Up to now I can only speculate what lies ahead, but for certain, to allocate more money for rent today, will limit the options of buying our own home in the future and will also impact the money bound for our children’s education.