Housing advocates call for change after Victoria’s latest “renoviction” notice

WATCH: Tenants in a Victoria apartment building say they have nowhere to go after they received a mass eviction notice from their landlord. As Calvin To reports, housing advocates say it’s a situation that is becoming all too common.

  Tenants at 2626 Cook Street in Victoria say they’ve been issued a mass eviction notice from the apartment building’s property owner, Headwater Projects.

In letters to tenants dated January 17, 2017, Headwater Projects says the building will be undergoing extensive renovations that will take approximately six months to complete, including upgrades to its electrical and plumbing systems. They include proof of a building permit issued by the City of Victoria. The letters indicate tenants must leave by March 31, 2017, and include details about an early signing bonus of $250 which being offered to tenants who agree to end their tenancy early by February 1. 

Former homeless man Richard Gillette has lived in the building for two years. He’s now afraid he’ll be back on the street.

“I think that they’re being very thoughtless,” Gillette says.

This comes at a time when the housing market in Greater Victoria is red hot. A recent study by Demographia listed Victoria as the least affordable small market in the country. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Capital Region has a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate.

The website for Headwater Projects indicates it recently acquired 2626 Cook Street.

The Together Against Poverty Society, which provides housing assistance for people in need, says the building likely houses between 30 and 50 people, many of whom are on fixed incomes.

“When these folks find themselves without a home for reasons outside their control, they can’t adjust to the fact that rent has increased by 30 per cent in the past ten years,” says Emily Rogers, TAPS’ legal advocate.

A call to Headwater Projects was not returned.

Landlords say “renovictions” are becoming a common necessity. According to LandlordBC, nearly half of Greater Victoria’s 50,000 rental units are aging and due for significant renovations by 2025.

“Once you start talking about windows and building envelope and the roof and mechanicals, it very quickly becomes obvious that the investment required is huge,” says LandlordBC CEO Dave Dhutniak. He adds that renovations are the only way to increase the lifespan of buildings constructed decades ago. 

Housing advocates are now calling on the province to provide more protection for tenants. The NDP has unsuccessfully introduced a private members’ bill concerning the issue in the past. It plans to put forth another one next month.