SRO renovictions break up communities: By Jean Swanson
“I feel incredible. I’m very happy.” That’s what Mohammad Valayati told people at a news conference on June 19. Months ago he had been evicted illegally from the Clifton Hotel on Granville St. in Vancouver. On June 15th the Residential Tenancy Branch agreed with him that the eviction was illegal and ordered the landlord to let him back in his room. But the situation was complicated. All of the other 73 tenants had already been evicted and the building was empty. The water and electricity were turned off. The RTB arbitrator said the landlord had to restore the services so Mohammad could return to his $450 a month room.
The SRO Collaborative held a news conference in front of the hotel on June 19, to celebrate the victory and put pressure on the city and province to use carrots and sticks to get the landlord to upgrade the hotel and keep the rents affordable to people on welfare and disability and seniors. The SRO Collaborative wants government to stop the renoviction scenario that’s already happened in at least 23 Vancouver residential hotels which are the last resort before homelessness. Landlords evict low-income people, upgrade the building, then charge rents in the $550 to $1100 range. As a result, people with really low incomes have nowhere to go. It’s a big reason why Vancouver had the highest homeless count ever last year.
“The judge listened to my story and granted me possession of my room and ordered everything to be turned on,” explained Mohammed about the RTB decision. “Today he is supposed to turn the water on.”
“There was a beautiful community here before the new owners came,” Mohammad said. They used to bring me coffee and donuts and celebrate life. We talked. We borrowed sugar…. Because of this renoviction we’ll never get this community back.”
“Our goal is to get intervention by the government to take over the building,” said SRO Collaborative worker Wendy Pedersen. But by the end of the day, the City of Vancouver took over in a different way. They declared the building unfit for human habitation and gave Mohammad an hour to leave. “This morning justice prevailed, but right now I’m now feeling justice is open to interpretation,” said Mohammad.
But neither Mohammad nor the SRO Collaborative are giving up. They have another RTB hearing in July where they will be asking the landlord to restore all the services necessary to make the building habitable and will also seek compensation for Mohammad for having to put up with so much trouble and stress.