On February 2nd, Maureen and Gary found bylaw, police officers, and city officials in front of their door. “They cut off the lock and told us we had [already been told] to get out by January 31st. But they didn’t have an order of possession or a bailiff. They were very rude and violent. We stood our ground against the police, the bylaw and officials from the Township of Langley and they left.”
The Township purchased the property where Maureen, Gary, and three others live in the fall, ostensibly to bulldoze it in order to expand the adjacent Langley Events Centre’s parking lot. When Maureen was served an eviction notice in October, she reached out to the City and explained that they have nowhere to go. “They said they’d look into extending the tenancy or find us a place to move into, then said they didn’t find anything,” Maureen explained.
Maureen’s case highlights the role municipalities take in stewarding and spearheading the destruction of low-income housing. While Metro Vancouver, of which Langley is a part, recommends a “one-for-one” replacement policy, where any demolished rental housing should be replaced with new rental units, neither the City nor Township of Langley require that developers replace rentals lost to redevelopment. Langley’s management of development is a textbook example of how cities organize gentrification.
The problem of Langley’s refusal to protect scarce rental units is even more stark in the case of the home of Maureen and her household. The property was bought by the city for over $10 million and is being demolished by the government itself for a non-residential development.
“They’re just commercializing our residential neighbourhoods,” Maureen said. “Having a roof over your head is the key to living. The price of housing is unaffordable to us; it’s a huge issue. It’s worse than the pandemic.” If successful, this will be the fourth house in a row that Maureen has been demovicted from.
“They don’t need to build a parking lot at this moment, it’s like an insult,” Maureen said. She does not understand the Township’s hurry to demolish her home for a parking lot for a convention centre that doesn’t host any events, and suspects that the city is seizing on the opportunity to demolish a property that houses low-income people who are part of a broader community of homeless and underhoused people.
“We are in touch with many people from the homeless community and let them stay here sometimes, when they have nowhere to go. They’re our friends,” Maureen said. Gary said that he knows over twenty people homeless in the community. Maureen agrees: “There’s lots. My friends don’t call me asking to find them a house, but where to pitch a tent”.
If they were to be evicted tomorrow, Maureen said, “I don’t know where we would go. I hired moving trucks but have nowhere to go. It’s a catch-22. The Township needs to go back and find me something that works.”
When asked by members of the Eviction Defense Network if they could provide affordable housing to the tenants they are evicting, the Township’s response was “no.”
“The RCMP proposed that I stay in a motel,” Maureen said. “The City and bailiff need to get their shit together. People on low income or disability don’t know how to fight evictions like this, that’s not fair.”
The Eviction Defense Network is supporting the tenants’ refusal to leave their home as well as their demand that the Township find them appropriate, equally affordable replacement housing as a precondition for demoviction. In addition, the EDN calls on Langley Township to replace the 5 affordable rental units in the house with low-income affordable non-market housing and to adopt a policy of requiring the Township to provide all tenants they seek to evict with affordable and permanent replacement housing.