Please Stop the Demoviction of an Iconic Building & Community in East Vancouver

Please Stop the Demoviction of an Iconic Building & Community in East Vancouver

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Tenants of Alma Blackwell started this petition to Premier of British Columbia Honourable John Horgan

Dear Minister Horgan,

We are writing to you as BC tax payers on behalf of our beautiful, harmonious little community in East Vancouver requesting that you STOP the redevelopment of the building and renoviction of the tenants.

Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society (ENFHS) is redeveloping Alma Blackwell (AB) (1656 Adanac Street) - destroying a building that is iconic in East Vancouver, a visible legacy of feminism and the struggle for decent, low rise rental housing, pioneered by single mothers - without considering repair of the building and is sending people who need affordable housing into the street to build affordable housing for other people.  How does this make sense?!  It seems like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.   

Alma Blackwell is a special and unique community. This building was built in 1983 and has provided a safe space for women, families, and new British Columbians to begin their lives. Our community thrives on inclusion, equity, and diversity. Many tenants are fortunate to have found this affordable and supportive home after surviving abusive relationships, life altering events, and/or medical conditions. The community values sustainability. We have set up a Free Room in the building to promote clothing, book, and item reuse. We frequently lend and share with our neighbours, including child-minding and grocery shopping for those that are unable. And while these actions promote affordable living, it is truly the support network of our community that sustains us all.

In April 2021 AB tenants, comprised of families, elderly, Indigenous, single parents, disabled and others who have relied on safe, secure and affordable housing at Alma Blackwell for 30 years were invited to an online meeting with ENFHS consultants, City Spaces, wherein they provided ambiguous "unofficial official notice that they  decided to redevelop" our complex.  During this meeting, there were no city planners in attendance, nor were there representatives qualified to provide post-traumatic counselling support to the tenants after the meeting. You can watch the meeting here (the tenants were muted from comment or live questions) https://www.dropbox.com/s/70k60j79mkyfurv/2021-04-29Meeting.mp4?dl=0 

As you can imagine, this has left a close-knit, inclusive and diverse community devastated at the prospect of losing our homes, some who have lived here for 30 years! While everyone agrees with the need for more affordable housing, it cannot come at the cost of evicting those very people that need the housing. We have repeatedly asked ENFHS for the cost analysis of redevelopment vs repair as well as the Board of Directors minutes (it was stated in the meeting that it was the Board that decided to redevelop) to which our requests have been left unanswered and/or ignored.

We sent BC Housing a letter to which was ignored. We sent Minister Eby several emails to which were ignored.  We have had several meetings with City of Vancouver staff to which are questions are being volleyed around and unanswered after 2 months.  

Unfortunately, the affordability of Alma Blackwell has often been leveraged against tenants over the years. ENFHS has frequently delayed or not provided sufficient regular maintenance for the suites. Whether due to lack of funding or due to non-coverage, there has often been a tepid reason to not pursue standard routine maintenance that extends the safe, livable, and affordable housing within Alma Blackwell. The insecurity of the current housing market stacks the odds against many tenants. And, unfortunately, the ongoing inconvenience from lack of maintenance seems more appealing given that a basic need can still be met within affordable bounds. But is this truly a strategy that should be rewarding for a development organization that has funding to demolish and rebuild? Is it not the responsibility of a public housing organization to maintain and upkeep functional homes especially in a time of crisis?

The notice provided on April 29 side-stepped an opportunity to explore tenants’ needs to maintain their existing homes. We have not been provided with estimates or scope of work for repair. Yet, the rebuilding process seems urgent enough that tenants are being told to start relocation now, even without the proper paperwork or an official notice in place. Furthermore, a question was asked about when ENFHS and City Spaces commenced the redevelopment conversation. The response was deliberately vague. Many are disturbed by the fact that ENFHS never consulted with tenants about the decision to redevelop. Tenants have asked off and on over the past year if there was any truth to stories that Alma Blackwell might be sold or

redeveloped. We were told that those were just rumours and that there was no truth to them. We bring this to your attention because in Vancouver, home purchasing increases MINIMUM at $100,000 per year and rental increases at $200 per bedroom per year. Had the executives of ENFHS shared their intentions with us when they started consulting with City Spaces, our options may have been considerately more affordable.

It is with these considerations that a group of concerned tenants are writing to deliberate the intangibles of displacement: How will those living on the edge of affordability survive this event? How will those dependent on the community be able to build that network again? How will those working multiple jobs or parenting

multiple children accommodate the increased time, cost, and inconvenience that displacement presents? The tenants want fair treatment and due consideration to their needs for safe, affordable housing, and the supportive community network that already exists in Alma Blackwell. The redevelopment plan needs to be forward-thinking and bold in maintaining existing homes rather than demolishing them. We need to know if rehabilitation is a cost-effective option, as it could make the difference between being able to keep our existing homes rather than losing them.

Additionally, the question of whether ENFHS operates as a not-for-profit and the taxation implications was previously brought forward by CoV and I believe this question has merit. 2010 BCCA CoV v. ENFHS:  https://www.dropbox.com/home/ENFHS?preview=2010+BCCA+262+Vancouver+(City)+v.+Entre+Nous+Femme+Housing+Society.pdf  I'm providing this to you as I think it's noteworthy to mention that in para 34, which made ENFHS the successful party in this litigation, ."..occupation of the units by tenants in fulfillment of the societies' charitable purposes amounts to "actual occupation" of the properties by the housing societies...." 

My question as per the ENFHS Bylaws, https://www.dropbox.com/home/ENFHS?preview=ENFHS+Bylaws+2019.pdf para 2.4, how is it that tenants cannot be eligible for membership within the society when according to the law "..occupation of the units by tenants in fulfillment of the societies' charitable purposes amounts to "actual occupation" of the properties by the housing societies..."   This seems a double-dipping case of having cake and eating it too, no?  

I have been blocked several times from being a member of the society over the last 18 years.  I do not get any notification as to when their constitutions or bylaws change or the society's mission statement. Shouldn't I though since I am "in actual occupation of the unit which fulfills the societies charitable purposes" yet I have no knowledge or voice as to the societies direction or business?  This is very concerning to me and now the land is being redeveloped and I will be displaced and the bylaws and constitution has changed so I will not be able to return.  

While we have been leasing their land and contributing to their fulfillment of the non-taxpaying charitable designation, they changed the Constitution & Bylaws to the point that after the redevelopment, a number of us are unable to return.  This is absurd and indignifying because:  1) We have tried to be members of the society and have been denied; 2) We have no knowledge or voice in what or how the constitutions or bylaws change; 3) And by law we are fulfilling the societies charitable purposes by actual occupation.

Furthermore, there seems to be a loophole in the BC Societies Act in that the primary role of the Registrar of Companies is to ensure that a society complies with the filing requirements of the Act and maintains a record of those filings made by societies to ensure the information filed is available for public inspection. The Registrar does not supervise or investigate the conduct of societies or intervene in the governance and internal affairs of a society. The office is not able to review, interpret, or provide comments on the bylaws of a society. 

WHO HOLDS "CHARITABLE" ORGANIZATIONS ACCOUNTABLE?  WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES WHEN THEY ARE UNCHARITABLE, UNETHICAL OR UNLAWFUL? 

There is no regulatory body that is mandated or has authority to hold charitable housing societies that are shady slumlords responsible for their actions, inactions and neglect. Because they are a charitable organization and do enjoy the many benefits including tax breaks; should they not have a higher bar and fulsome requirements to redevelop? Shouldn't an analysis of repair vs. redevelopment be at the forefront of such a decision?  Shouldn't there be a suite by suite inquiry as to inspection and maintenance prior to a charitable housing societies redevelopment plan is even considered?

Minister Horgan, please intervene and RIGHT THIS WRONG BEFORE IT HAPPENS:

  1. Please meet with the tenants of 1656 Adanac Street.
  2. Please STOP the redevolopment of 1656 Adanac Street.
  3. Please impose on ENFHS generous compensation awards to the moved and relocated tenants of 1656 Adanac Street.  ENFHS worked quickly, shadily circumventing the TRPP relocating tenants.
  4. Please complete a comprehensive financial audit of ENFHS.
  5. Please develop comprehensive and transparent criteria that includes a long-standing tenant liason for housing societies potential redevelopment plans.
  6. Please create a regulatory body for BC housing societies holding these societies to a higher ethical bar as they are housing the marjority of BC's marginalized tenants.  This regulatory body will include tenant stakeholder and representation.

I/we await your response.

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